Friday, December 14, 2007

What Are They Now?

After reading in John Sloan’s New York, the catalogue to the Delaware Art Museum’s exhibition Seeing the City: Sloan’s New York, that John Sloan’s studio in Philadelphia was at 705 Walnut Street in Olde City Philadelphia, I took a field trip to see if the old place was still there. From the picture above, it looks like the building could date from the early 1890s, when Sloan worked there. The rest of the block has changed since then, so looking back at the images Sloan painted from the window of his 705 Walnut Street studio are exercises in nostalgia.

I then went down another block to see what became of the 806 Walnut Street studio once occupied by Robert Henri and later by him and Sloan after the two formed a friendship in the early 1890s. Sadly, a modern parking garage with a few businesses on the ground level stands where Henri and Sloan once worked.

At neither place appears any marker to indicate that these artists once worked there. Philadelphia’s track record for keeping track of their artistic heritage remains poor. The spot near Chestnut and Broad Streets where Thomas Eakins painted for many years is marked by an inconspicuous plaque (above) placed there in 1966 by an admirer on the 50th anniversary of Eakins’ death. Eakins’ house on Mount Vernon Street has fallen into disrepair and even appears on lists of endangered historical sites. Perhaps someone will someday write a book on the art historical landmarks of Philadelphia, both the lost and the found.

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