Helen Farr Sloan (1911-2005) was the widow of celebrated American artist John Sloan (1871-1951), one of the original members of The Eight and later the Ashcan School of realist painters. Mrs. Sloan was herself an accomplished artist, educator, art patron, and philanthropist who dedicated herself to preserving her husband’s legacy after his death in 1951. For many years, she maintained his archives while collecting information and sponsoring research projects related to her husband’s life and artistic career. She provided documentary sources to many authors working on book projects about Sloan’s life and artistic works, while writing prefaces for a number of publications and even editing some works. Mrs. Sloan funded the Philadelphia Inquirer notebooks project (which comprises this collection) to document the artistic context for the early stages of her husband’s career.
John Sloan was born in Philadelphia in 1871, and attended Philadelphia Central High School. In 1887, Sloan started working for a dealer of books and fine arts, where he soon earned extra income by selling pen-and-ink drawings and gift cards. In 1892, Sloan joined the art department of The Philadelphia Inquirer , where he worked until 1895, mostly illustrating the Sunday edition of the paper. He continued to provide occasional illustrations for The Inquirer Sunday Magazine even after moving to another newspaper, Philadelphia Press , and his illustrations also appeared in several magazines, including Moods: A Journal Intime , where he became art editor in 1895. From 1892 to 1895, Sloan attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he encountered American artist Robert Henri, who would inspire him to abandon illustration work to pursue painting as a career.
Bruce St. John. John Sloan. New York, Washington, London: Praeger Publisher, 1971.
John Loughery. John Sloan, Painter and Rebel. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1805-2005: 200 Years of Excellence. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 2005.
"Finding aid to the John Sloan Collection." Delaware Museum of Art. http://www.delart.org (accessed September 26, 2008).
The Helen Farr Sloan Philadelphia Inquirer notebooks consists of fourteen binders of Philadelphia-area news clippings broadly related to the subject of art. Materials date from 1886 to 1896, encompassing the early years of John Sloan’s work in Philadelphia, and suggest that Mrs. Sloan supported this project to collect biographical and historical context for this period of her husband’s career. The collection includes photocopies of art-related materials published in the following Philadelphia newspapers: The Philadelphia Inquirer , The Evening Call , The Evening Telegraph , The Evening Bulletin , North American , The Philadelphia Press , The Philadelphia Record , Public Ledger , and The Times . The bulk of the articles are from The Philadelphia Inquirer . The collection is organized in chronological order and is divided into three series.
Series I. The Philadelphia Inquirer , 1886-1896, contains the bulk of the collection, including articles, notices, editorials, and advertisements about art. Beginning in 1892, the year that John Sloan joined the art department of The Philadelphia Inquirer , newspaper illustrations by John Sloan and Everett Shinn were actively collected, and by 1895 the illustrations had become the primary focus of the series, outnumbering actual articles and notices.
The majority of the materials in this series cover the activities of museums, schools, clubs, and societies in and around Philadelphia. The leading institution in terms of newspaper coverage is the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, or PAFA. In many ways, PAFA was the hub of artistic culture in Philadelphia, as many of the individuals featured in the articles of this series have, or had, ties to PAFA. In particular, news about PAFA faculty, including such notable American artists as Thomas Eakins, Thomas Hovenden, Thomas Anshutz, William Merritt Chase, Charles Grafly, and Cecilia Beaux appeared frequently. For example, the controversy over employing nude models in mixed gender art classes at PAFA that forced Thomas Eakins to resign in 1886 generated numerous articles and editorials.
Exhibition coverage is another major component of the materials in this series. Exhibitions at PAFA, especially the Academy’s annual exhibition, were treated as major events. PAFA also hosted a number of significant exhibitions sponsored by other organizations, such as the photography exhibitions of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia, which began exhibiting at PAFA as early as 1886. Private exhibitions received extensive coverage as well. Several important Philadelphia galleries, including James S. Earle & Sons, Davis & Harvey, Haseltine Galleries, and J. E. Caldwell, exhibited and sold works that ranged from those by well-known Philadelphia artists to paintings direct from the Paris Salons. Reports on the sale, donation, or bequest of private art collections appeared regularly, such as the bequest to PAFA in 1892 of the important art collection of PAFA board member Henry C. Gibson.
Educational activities, including curriculum, and student exhibitions were also reported for a variety of art and design schools, including Franklin Industrial Drawing School, the School of Industrial Arts, the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and the Drexel Institute. News about meetings, exhibitions, social activities, and travels of a broad range of art-related clubs and societies also appeared frequently. Among these are the Philadelphia Society of Artists, the Sketch Club, the Art Club, the Quintet Club (extended coverage of the members’ European travels), and the Philobiblon Club. Several organizations with a more specific focus include the T Square Club (architecture), American Water Color Society (watercolor painting), the Illustrators Club (illustration), and the Decorative Arts League.
The activities and money-raising efforts of Philadelphia public monument committees like Fairmount Park Art Association and the Barnes Statue Association for monuments ranging from Beethoven to Joan of Arc were followed closely in the papers. Military monuments evoked special interest, particularly the numerous sculptural commissions to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1888, as did Gettysburg’s Cyclorama, the panoramic painting of the Battle at Missionary Ridge.
Architecture received relatively little coverage, except for a few notices about building projects, like the University of Pennsylvania’s library and the new PAFA building, both designed by Frank Furness. Also, coverage of international art, artists and art events was sparse, except for expatriate American artists like James McNeill Whistler, and major events like the construction and dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1889 and the building of the Eiffel Tower for the Paris Exposition of 1893.
Series II. Other newspapers, 1886-1887, gathers materials from other sources, before most of these papers became defunct or were absorbed by The Philadelphia Inquirer . One newspaper, The Evening Call , offered significantly more regional (eastern United States) and international art coverage than The Philadelphia Inquirer , which was primarily Philadelphia-centered. However, this lasted only briefly, and articles in the other newspapers in this series conformed to the coverage presented in The Philadelphia Inquirer .
Series III. Drexel family, 1886-1892, is a small, separately organized group of articles and notices that trace the social and philanthropic activities of the Drexels, a prominent Philadelphia banking family, and Philadelphia Public Ledger publisher George Childs, close friend of Anthony J. Drexel. Most of these clippings are devoted to the philanthropic efforts of these two men, who together and individually supported numerous charitable, cultural, and educational projects, like the creation of the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (later Drexel University) in 1891, and the founding of a home for retired union printers in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1892. The social life of the three Drexel brothers (Francis, Anthony, and Joseph) and their spouses and children, was avidly followed in the papers through short notices about dinners, parties, and trips abroad, and long articles detailing weddings, deaths, funerals, bequests, and other notable events, like the decision of Francis Drexel’s middle daughter Katharine Mary (later Saint Katharine Drexel) to become a nun in 1889. The list of articles for this series featured in the finding aid is not complete and additional articles related to the Drexel family can be found among the Series III. materials.