William Glackens Biography

William Glackens




Painter, printmaker, and co-counder of the Ashcan School William James Glackens was born March 13, 1870 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating from the renowned Central High School he secured a job as an artist-reporter for the Philadelphia Record, and in 1892 he left for a position as an illustrator at the Philadelphia Press. At this time he enrolled in courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and though he proved to be a unreliable student, it was at this school that he made the connections that would prove most valuable to him throughout his career. Friendships with John Sloan and Robert Henri would eventually help to form the Ashcan School.

Glackens spent the year 1895 traveling throughout Europe to study Old Masters and burgeoning Modern artists. Unlike his fellow artists and travelers, he did not attend art schools of Europe, choosing instead to continue his autodidactic path. He returned to the U.S. in 1896, settling in New York, but he would visit Paris frequently throughout the rest of his career. 

Glackens continued to work as an illustrator as he pursued fine art, creating imagery for New York World, New York Herals, McClure's, and more while continuing to paint and exhibit. In 1901 he participated in his first major galery exhibition at the Allen Gallery with Henri and Sloan. He was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member in 1906 and, despite the clashes he had with the institution, he would become a full Academician in 1933. BY 1908, the Ashcan School was fully realized, with artists Glackens, Henri, Sloan, George Luks, and Everett Shinn forming the core of the group and Arthur B. Davies, Ernest LAwson, and Maurice Pendergrast making up "The Eight," as they were dubbed by the press. Their common ideaology was formed in retaliation of the National Academy of Design and its conservative stance on art. A scandalous and revolutionary uprising, the eight participating artists inspired others throughout the East Coast and beyond, and helped paved the way for Modernism in the United States. 

His later career delved into contemporary Impressionism, breaking away from the moodier social realism that helped push him into the limelight and allowing him to concentrate on saturated color and form. Meanwhile, he continued to promote Modern art and his friend Albert C. Barnes, inventor and millionaire, hired Glackens to travel to Europe and purchase what would become the beginning of the Barnes Foundation art collection. This helped establish Glackens as a leading expert in contemporary work of the time, and of new movements that would appear in the famous 1913 Armory Show. He helped found the Society of Independent Artists and continued to paint and exhibit, earning two gold medals for his work in exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1933 and 1936.

Glackens' career was ultimately defined by both his willingness to search out and promote new art and artists, as well as work partially within these experimental bounds and then return, once more, to Impressionism. He was seen as old fashioned by the time of his death on May 22, 1938, but the entirety of his career read as that of an artist's artist: one who created for the sake of creation.