William Glackens 1870-1938
William Glackens began his career as an illustrator and an artist-reporter for newspapers and magazines in his hometown of Philadelphia. He traveled to Europe with art teacher Robert Henri, then moved to New York in 1896, where he worked for the New York Herald and found free-lance work as a magazine illustrator. In 1898, he was sent to Cuba by McClure’s Magazine to create illustrations during the Spanish American War.
In 1908, Glackens became part of a a group of artists, known as The Eight, whose goal it was to capture the everyday life of the working class in New York. If the goal of The Eight was to highlight the oppression of the masses, the movement didn’t work as a catalyst for change as they had hoped.
Because of the subject matter, the crowded urban scenes rather than idyllic settings, they became known as The Ashcan School, a title that was meant to be a slur by art critics.
A new book, The Ashcan School and The Eight: Creating a National Art, explores the history of the movement and how it influenced art in America…perhaps not the way they had originally intended.
William Glackens had a profound influence on American art. He greatly admired European art, especially the works of Pierre-August Renoir. During the latter part of his career, Glackens became known as the American Renoir because of his use of color and style.
Glackens also had an impact on the art world in America when he was commissioned by millionaire-inventor Albert C. Barnes, a classmate and friend from High School, to buy him some art works while on a trip to Paris. Glackens returned from Paris with about twenty paintings, which included works by Cézanne, Renoir, Manet, and Matisse, and which formed the core of what became the Barnes Foundation Collection.
Barnes also collected Glackens’ work, which are part of the Barnes Foundation Collection. The largest collection of Glackens’ art has been housed, since 2001, at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, where an entire wing is dedicated to his work; the museum holds approximately 500 Glackens paintings in its permanent collection.
Michael Pearce. Book Review: The Ashcan School’s Lost Cause. Mutual Art. May 4, 2022.
Bob Duggan. William Glackens: Forgotten Father of American Modernism? Big Think. November 19, 2014.