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Everett Shinn (November 6, 1876 – May 1, 1953) was an American painter and member of the urban realist Ashcan School. Shinn started as a newspaper illustrator in Philadelphia, demonstrating a rare facility for depicting animated movement, a skill that would, however, soon be eclipsed by photography. Here he worked with William J. Glackens, George Luks and John Sloan, who became core-members of the Ashcan School, led by Robert Henri, which defied official good taste in favour of robust images of real life. Shinn is best known for scenes of disaster or street violence, as well as theatrical subjects, regarding the theatre as a place of satisfying illusion. Shinn was the only Ashcan artist who preferred to work in pastels. He was reportedly a model for the protagonist of Theodore Dreiser's novel The "Genius". In 1897, Shinn was offered a higher paying job as an illustrator for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. (Theodore Dreiser also worked for the World at that time.) He was joined shortly after by his wife, Flossie, and by other members of the Charcoal Club. Shinn enjoyed living in the city and observing the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. His fascination with the intensity of urban life is evident in paintings like Fire on Mott Street and Fight or in his renderings of election rallies and matinee crowds. Shinn had a particular interest in scenes of drama (accidents, buildings on fire) and street violence. His preferred medium at this time when not drawing for the newspaper was pastel, the medium least associated with the grittiness of his subject matter. He is the only Ashcan artist to produce a large body of work in pastel.
Shinn left no record or notes of any kind about his time in Europe, but it is generally assumed that he saw the work of Daumier, Degas, and Lautrec while in France and Walter Sickert while in England. Echoes of the style of all four artists can be found in Shinn's work, especially in the affinity he shares with Degas in depictions of stages marked by unusual croppings and compositions. Some of these paintings, like Trapeze, Winter Garden, New York (1903) or Curtain Call (n.d.), view the performers from the rear of the stage and include the audience as a backdrop to the picture itself; others, like London Hippodrome (1902), assume an imaginary aerial perspective from a balcony; and others take as a vantage point the middle of the orchestra pit (e..g, the 1906 The Orchestra Pit: Old Proctor's Fifth Avenue Theater), looking up toward the stage at a sharp angle. Whether depicting ballet dancers, magicians, actors, acrobats, or vaudevillians, Shinn (who presumably spent a good deal of time at the theater himself) presents performance art as an enlivening and sensuous, if sometimes raucous, experience for both the men and women on the stage and the audience.
Shinn became friendly with a number of major theater professionals in New York, including playwright Clyde Fitch, actress Julia Marlowe, and producer David Belasco. They were able to introduce him to a social elite in Manhattan that included interior designer Elsie de Wolfe and architect Stanford White. As a result, "Shinn did a number of murals for houses built by Stanford White and for many houses and apartments decorated by Elsie de Wolfe." His clients were usually interested in a Louis XVI style called "rococo revivalism." The ceilings and pianos in Clyde Fitch's apartments were also decorated by Shinn, and Fitch was happy to recommend his services to other wealthy acquaintances. It was a lucrative arrangement and a somewhat incongruous one for a man who also painted dock workers and brawling barflies. Shinn's most lasting contribution in this area, recently restored, are the murals he painted for Belasco's Stuyvesant Theatre (today the Belasco Theatre), which opened in 1907 and is still a prominent Broadway playhouse. About this space, one theater historian has written: "The rich walnut paneling, ornamental Tiffany lamps, and eighteen murals by Everett Shinn created a warm, comfortable setting for Belasco's standard mix of dazzling scenic effects and melodramatic hokum."
In February 1908, Shinn exhibited in a legendary exhibition at the Macbeth Galleries in New York that was intended as a protest against the conservative tastes and restrictive exhibition practices of the powerful National Academy of Design. The show, which also traveled to several cities from Newark to Chicago, occasioned considerable comment in the press about appropriate styles and content in art and gave the Ashcan painters more national publicity than they had previously enjoyed. The exhibiting artists, known as The Eight, included five realists (Shinn, Henri, Sloan, Glackens, and Luks) and three other artists (Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast) who painted in a less realistic, more impressionistic style. Among the paintings Shinn chose to exhibit with The Eight was The London Hippodrome (1902), his most reproduced work