(MAIN GALLERY) Everett Shinn emphatically stated in 1947, “In my opinion Glackens is the greatest draughtsman this country has produced.”
William Glackens (1870-1938) began drawing while still in high school and by age 21 had become an artist-reporter, working at a succession of local newspapers – Philadelphia Record, Philadelphia Press, and the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Blessed with a photographic memory and remarkable dexterity, he became an expert at capturing crowd scenes and unexpected disasters. His tenure at the Press contributed to a renewed relationship with former classmate John Sloan and flowering friendships with George Luks and Everett Shinn, who were also all well-regarded illustrators.
Glackens lived a rather adventurous life as a young man. He briefly attended the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in 1892 where his friend John Sloan introduced him to Robert Henri, an inspirational teacher who became his mentor. Soon after meeting Henri, Glackens developed a life-long love of painting. It was drawing however that initially and rapidly brought him success and a stable income.
Glackens’s success with graphics was matched by his national recognition as a remarkable painter; first, as a member of the Philadelphia Realists, headed by Robert Henri and subsequently as “America’s Renoir.”
Despite his reputation and success as a painter, Glackens shunned commissioned portraiture because he was too independent and head-strong. He participated in the two most successful and controversial exhibitions mounted in Manhattan during the first quarter of the twentieth-century: The Eight in 1908, followed by The Armory Show in 1913. The former exhibition brought together an incongruous blend of artists, among them realist John Sloan, impressionist Ernest Lawson and symbolist Arthur B. Davies. The Eight presented their work arbitrarily side-by-side, creating a dissonant display that proved to be not only scandalous but highly profitable. The Armory show, however, a groundbreaking exhibition that introduced Cubism and Marcel Duchamp to the American audience, made conventional realists like Glackens and his coterie appear old-fashioned and out of touch with modern art.
Glackens’s graphic body of work was both varied and multi-purpose. He was equally adept in charcoal, pen-and-ink, watercolor, and etching, which he notoriously loathed and found frustrating. Glackens’s line was charged with meaning and purpose, conveying human emotion and state of mind. His crowd scenes are never monolithic, but an assemblage of very personal vignettes.
By 1919, his career as an illustrator came to a sudden halt. His abandonment of this particular discipline was most likely due to the unstoppable advancements made in the field of photography. By 1901, the medium of photography became available to the mass-market with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie. To Glackens, this advent was both friend and foe; while it closed one door, it opened another.
All of the works of art in Glackens as Illustrator have been selected from the Glackens estate of over 500 works given to the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern University in 1990 by his son, Ira Glackens. The exhibition includes three of his most admired large-format