John French Sloan (1871-1951, American)

john-french-sloan, cat artJohn French Sloan (1871-1951, American) born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, grew up in Philadelphia where he lived until 1904 when he moved to New York City. Early on he was encouraged to pursue art, and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; however, when his father had a mental breakdown, he was forced to quit school and started working at a bookstore.  There he created his first works which he sold in the store.  He went on to produce greeting cards and calendars. By 1903, he had created more than sixty oil paintings, but remained virtually unknown. He survived by illustrating books and by working at The Philadelphia Press, where he drew puzzles until 1910.  He got his break when his works were exhibited at the Macbeth Galleries. Sloan became a Socialist and Pacifist and was opposed to WWI and the inequalities of the American economic system.  In 1914, Sloan began to teach classes at the Art Students’ League, which he would continue to do for the next eighteen years.

Sloan was one of the founders of the Ashcan School, a term he, in fact, despised. He became well-known for realist paintings of early 20th century New York City urban settings. A few of his paintings include cats as the inevitable companions of cat lovers or as typical inhabitants of urban neighborhoods and establishments.  In Chinese Restaurant, 1909, we see a cat in a seemingly respectable restaurant looking up at a woman who is feeding it from the table.  

John Sloan (American, 1871-1951) Chinese Restaurant, 1909

Chinese Restaurant


In Mr. McSorley’s Cats a man, perhaps a butcher, is surrounded by four obviously hungry cats in a bar.


Mr. McSorley’s Cats


John French Sloan, Green's Cat, 1900

Green’s Cat


John Sloan (1871–1951). Backyards, Greenwich Village, 1914

Backyards, Greenwich Village


Detail, Backyard Greenwich Village, John Sloan, cat art

Detail, Backyards Greenwich Village


Sloan created his art slowly and methodically and most of it was based on scenes he remembered, not sketched in real life settings. His sketches gave only the impression of the immediacy of a setting, like a snapshot.  In the charcoal etching, The Effect is Spoiled a woman reads a book near a window as a cat sits on the sill.

John French Sloan - The effect is spoiled (1913-1915) Woman and Cat

The effect is Spoiled 1913-1915


In another etching, Sunbathers on the Roof, we see a man and woman lying on the roof with a black cat in between them, undoubtedly a symbol of lust and desire.


Sunbathers on the Roof John Sloan (1871-1951) cats

Sunbathers on the Roof


In the 1920’s Sloan turned to painting nudes and portraits. A fine example of which is the portrait of Dolly with a Cat.

Dolly with Cat, John French Sloan

Dolly with Cat

Today Sloan’s works are found in many museums around the United States.


Want to know more about the cat in art, history and literature?  Then Revered and Reviled is the book for you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 


Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats





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