William Glackens


William Glackens was an American painter whose work and life had a profound influence on twentieth century American art.


Early Life and Education

William Glackens was born in 1870 at his family home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When he was fifteen he enrolled in Central High School to study art. It was at Central High where he met fellow students Albert Barnes and John Sloan.

At age twenty-two he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where Sloan introduced him to Robert Henri. Glackens, Sloan and Henri formed The Charcoal Club. They painted nudes and other subjects that were not offered at the Academy.


Glackens work was publicly displayed, for the first time, in 1894, at the Pennsylvania Academy’s Annual Exhibition.


In 1895, Glackens, Henri and a few other friends traveled through Europe for a year. The influence of Monet, Manet, Renoir and the work of the other painters he saw during that year, are apparent in his work.



At age 26, Glackens moved to New York and worked as a newspaper illustrator and cartoonist. He worked for McClure’s Magazine and was sent to Cuba in 1898 to illustrate events for news articles during the Spanish-American War.


Around 1900, Glackens, Henri, Sloan, Everett Shinn and George Luks began to paint realistic scenes of everyday life in the city and became known as The Ashcan Painters. Glackens, Henri and Sloan exhibited at the Alan Gallery in New York and their works were well received.


Glackens began to turn away from city scenes and paint more ethereal landscapes and portraits. In 1904, Glackens married Edith Dimock, who was also an artist. The couple had two children, Lenna and Ira.


After repeated rejections from the conservative National Academy of Design, Glackens and his fellow Ashcan Painters, known as The Eight, held a very successful show at the MacBeth Gallery in New York.


Albert Barnes, Glackens old school friend, was very supportive, and asked Glackens to travel to Europe and purchase paintings by Cezanne, van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir and others. Glackens acquisitions became the basis of the Barnes Foundation Collection.


In 1913, Glackens helped to organize the Armory Show which introduced Americans to modern European and American avant-garde art. Glackens and his family began, in 1925, to spend more time in Europe than in New York. He painted family life and began to do more still life paintings in his studio, possibly because of failing health.

Glackens died suddenly, while on vacation in Westport, Connecticut in 1938. That same year the Whitney Museum held a retrospective of his work.



Many of Glackens’ paintings are in the permanent collection of the Barnes Foundation, The Whitney Museum and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

The Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale houses the largest collection, about 500, of Glackens’ paintings. An entire wing is dedicated just to the work of William Glackens.


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