John Sloan (1871-1951): Six O'Clock, Winter, 1912, Oil on11/16/2021, 1:21:01 PM
John Sloan (1871-1951): Six O'Clock, Winter, 1912, Oil on canvas, 66 x 81.3 cm (26 x 32 in.), Philips Collection, Washington, DC A member of the American Ashcan School, John French Sloan focused his paintings and prints on his favorite subject: the “drab, shabby, happy, sad, and human life” of a city and its people during the early 20th century. His 'Six O'Clock, Winter' – the Third Avenue "El" (short for "elevated train") at the peak of the evening rush hour – reflects Sloan's ability to catch the drama in everyday scenes. The shop girls, clerks, and working men and women who are massed in the lower part of the canvas seem absorbed in their own actions, rushing to their various destinations, generally unaware of the huge elevated railway looming high above them. Here, Sloan experiments with the effects of artificial lighting, depicting the crowd at dusk, the last rays of a winter sun visible in the sky. The figures are illuminated by the glow of the train's electric lights from above and from the shops at street level, with those in the lower left of the composition cast in strong light. Loosely brushed in, the faces have a masklike appearance, while those on the right are almost hidden in shadow, obscuring their features. The massive El, creating a dark diagonal sweep across the length of the canvas, threatens to burst out of the picture frame, but it is held in check by the vertical steel posts, which are seemingly anchored in the crowd. Silhouetted against an ice-blue winter sky, the waiting train appears even more powerful.