Oil and tempera on canvas with Weber Picture Copal Varnish, wax finish on canvas
Gift of John Sloan Dickey, Class of 1929; P.959.141
The novelist and playwright Floyd Dell served as managing editor of The Masses from 1914 until its demise in 1917. This leftist literary magazine featured illustrations by major urban realists, including John Sloan, George Bellows, and Robert Henri. Sloan joined the staff of the magazine as art editor in 1914, the year he contributed one of the most magazine’s most searing cover illustrations and painted Dell’s portrait. This work reflects the radical change in Sloan’s painting style that took place after the 1913 Armory Show in New York. That exhibition introduced him to the work of such artists as Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Matisse, whose stylistic influence can be seen here in Sloan’s broad, loose brushwork and bold palette. Around this time Sloan began to explore the color theories of Hardesty Maratta (1864-1924). Accordingly, he orchestrated his brighter chromatic schemes with a pre-set palette of forty to sixty color “notes” unique to each canvas. The daring color scheme is especially suited to the subject, since Dell was known not only for his revolutionary politics but for his unconventional lifestyle as well. Despite Sloan’s socialist activities during this period, he eventually found the socialist editorial content of The Masses too hard line. Like several of his fellow artist contributors to the magazine, Sloan also resented Dell’s tendency to change and overpoliticize the captions for his drawings, and he resigned his position as art editor in 1916.
Last Updated: 5/13/09