Ashcan school

DEFINITION

A term loosely applied to the first American art movement of the 20th century, begun soon after 1900 by Robert Henri. Other painters included Everett Shinn, George Bellows, John Sloan and George Luks. Their commonality was realistic portrayal of the city life around them, usually that which was 'less-than-glamourous'. The unrelieved accuracy of their paintings of New York slums led to the nickname the 'Ashcan School', a description first used by Holger Cahill and Alfred Barr in a book in 1934. The Ashcan painters had earned their living illustrating newspaper articles, and this training in realistic depiction undoubtedly influenced their style. None of the artists stayed consistently with the subject matter, nor did they view themselves as messengers of social change as did the Social Realists of the 1930s. They painted very few "ash cans" and there was no formal "school". As advocates in varying degrees of realism, they have also been referred to as New York Realists. Sometimes the term Ash Can School is mistakenly synonymous with The Eight, but The Eight refers only to a group that exhibited together at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908 (see Glossary). Source: "Brittanica Encyclopedia of American Art"

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