Saturday in the Museum with John

Image: John Sloan,

We like to post about art on Saturdays, usually a piece that has some connection to food to match the overall theme of our site.  For today’s post, falling on such a solemn date, we want to pay tribute to New York.  This piece we believe nods to a city that constantly regenerates itself, that is a center of progress, and where the history is all around; a city of immigrants and a city of joy even when it requires gritty determination.

John Sloan’s portrays the restaurant that was on 10th Street in Greenwich Village.  The address is a couple blocks from the Stonewall Inn in one direction, The Village Vanguard in another.  It is just a few blocks over from the location of the scene of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146, many of them women workers, the year before this painting was done.

It is currently in the holdings of the Art Institute of Chicago, which provides the following context for the painting:

“John Sloan often explored the leisure activities of working-class women and the changing social mores of the 20th century. Here he focused on three women who sit together at the central table of a popular Italian restaurant in New York City. By showing the women celebrating a night out on the town, the artist emphasized their newfound freedom to socialize in public spaces without the need for male escorts. Although he indicated their working-class status through their “unladylike” gestures—legs wrapped around their chairs and pinkies flared in the air—Sloan did not cast judgment on the women’s relaxed behavior. His informal style and loose brushwork enliven this scene of urban leisure with a sense of immediacy and action.”

So as we pause and consider the physical and emotional scars of this date, we suggest there is something about New York, about the United States, that also contains the power to recover, rebuild, and look forward.  There is also the ability to come together collectively to face the challenges history gives us.  In that respect, our current moment may be equally profound when we look back in another twenty years.  There is an unintentionally chilling passage in the von Drehle article about the factory fire linked above that reminds us of that perspective.


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