Former renter in Greenwich Village, waiting out the turnaround in Manhattan's midtown. Working on a blog-to-book project about my NYC/NJ ancestors. Everyday I'm amazed by what I find with Ancestry and in old newspapers.

August 3, 2019

Celebrating John Sloan's birthday around the world

A Woman's Work, 1912,
Cleveland Museum of Art

What images come to mind when you think of John Sloan? For many women from as far away as Spain, Turkey and Iceland who remembered his birthday on Twitter yesterday, it's his paintings of women hanging laundry.

Sloan painted these scenes from his apartment windows in Greenwich Village and, later, Chelsea. In his time, clotheslines were ubiquitous in immigrant neighborhoods (for  photos see "A Fine Line: The Art of the Clothesline" on MCNY Blog: New York Stories).

Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair, 1912,
Addison Gallery of American Art

But as more women went to work, clotheslines fell out of favor and city dwellers used clothes dryers and laundry services. I haven't seen any clotheslines in Greenwich Village, but "right to dry" environmentalists who want to save energy are hoping to change that. There's no law in NYC against hanging laundry outside but co-ops and condos prohibit it. 

Greenwich Village Alley,
Jessie Tarbox Beals, MCNY

The laundry scenes in Sloan's paintings look nostalgic to us, but the reality is closer to the clutter in old city photographs. We don't want to bring that back, now do we?

Contact: Debbie Carter, VillagerExpat@aol.com, (212) 925-3721

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