A Roof in Chelsea, New York
About 1941, with additions in 1945 and 1951
Tempera underpaint with oil-varnish glaze and wax finish on composition board
Purchased through the Julia L. Whittier Fund; P.946.12.2
Well-known for the scenes of everyday life in New York City that he painted from around 1900 to 1920, John Sloan periodically returned to such imagery in his later years as well. This is one of Sloan’s last renderings of the domestic city life he so loved to observe. He worked on the painting at intervals beginning in 1941. During the summer he spent in Hanover in 1951, he changed the color of the building on the right from yellow to brick-pink and heightened the color of the pigeons. Sloan was particularly drawn to the subject of women hanging out laundry on rooftops. He described his persistent attraction to this theme as “an urge to record my strong emotional response to the city woman, any woman running up colors of a fresh clean wash. Sun, wind, . . . blowing hair, unconscious grace give me great joy.” The pigeons swooping above add to the animated, cheerful atmosphere and attract the gaze of the rooftop inhabitants, including the pigeonkeeper at lower left. Keeping homing pigeons has long been a popular hobby for city inhabitants, who sometimes use them even today to send messages or engage in races. The hobby provides one more reason to escape to a city roof for a taste of the outdoors. Full of light, movement, and brilliant color, this ebullient image stands in sharp contrast to some of Sloan’s more introspective works and the strident political illustrations he created earlier in his career.
Last Updated: 4/29/09