Frank Joseph Van Sloun Biography

Frank Joseph Van Sloun




Frank Joseph Van Sloun, painter, printmaker, and teacher, was born on 4 November 1879 in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he spent his childhood and attended school. Early on he showed a talent and passion for art and sports. After studying at the St. Paul School of Fine Arts, Van Sloun briefly pursued professional baseball. At the age of twenty-two he enrolled in art classes at the Art Students’ League in New York City and for four years he studied under Robert Henri and Edward Hopper. Henri introduced social realism to Van Sloun, and encouraged him to paint and draw everyday people going about their ordinary lives. Through Henri, he became associated with the "Ashcan" School.

In New York, Van Sloun joined the Society of Independent Artists, a group who rebelled against the conservative trends of the National Academy of Design. He also helped Henri organize the first exhibition of the Society in 1910. From 1907 to 1908, Van Sloun stayed in San Francisco, California where he established a studio. He taught composition, drawing, and illustration at the California School of Fine Arts in 1918, and he also exhibited his work at the San Francisco Art Association's Fifty-fifth Annual Exhibition.

In 1914 Van Sloun began his extensive work in mural painting when he was commissioned by the Mayor's office of the city of Oakland, California. His social realism background influenced his mural, and it depicted a pioneer family. He continued painting and he received the bronze medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco for his painting of an actor. He also exhibited his first solo show at the Helgesen in San Francisco the following year. Frank Van Sloun continued to paint murals for various California institutions: he painted murals for the California War Memorial Library building in Sacramento in 1928, and the Greek inspired decorations for the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1936. He and Maynard Dixon painted murals in the Room of the Dons at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco in 1927.

Van Sloun was a member of the Society of Independent Artists, the San Francisco Art Association, the California Society of Etchers, the Society of Mural Painters, the Carmel Art Association, and the Bohemian Club. His work is represented in the Crocker Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Norton Simon Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Frank Van Sloun passed away on 27 August 1938 while preparing murals for the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-1940.