Happy Birthday John Sloan!! The American painter was born in 1871. After his father experienced a breakdown when he was 16, John Sloan supported his family as a bookstore cashier. It was here that he began to sketch and create etchings to sell out of the store. He eventually attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Sloan was a contemporary artist during the modern era, which brings us to a discussion of contemporary artists versus modern artists. “Modern” has a rather narrow meaning in that a picture is a picture rather than a picture “of” something. To quote Gertrude Stein, “ a picture is a picture is a picture”. Contemporary art, while created in modern times can be the modern handling of a subject. In other words it still relies on subject matter at least in part, while “modern” art can simply be colors, form, texture without being “of” anything. John Sloan belonged to a group of realists called the Ashcan School by critics. Their name comes from their subject interest in the sordid side of city life (presumably belonging in the ashcan). Sloan painted quite slowly, leading an acquaintance to refer to him as "the past participle of slow"! His work is frank realism bathed in glowing light as exemplified in the painting below: Jefferson Market 1917 in New York City, with the 6th street El Train (now gone) in the foreground. The market remains basically the same today.