Saturday, March 19

John Sloan, “Hanging Clothes,” 1920

"John Sloan's tiny print of a New York woman hanging clothes out to dry is no mere scribble nor intended primarily as an illustration of contemporary life. It is like all true art an allegory of its own making. This image, an etching from around 1920, would have required an acid bath and then washing in water. The prints, like the garments, must then be hung to dry; indoors, of course, but this is allegory. Like clothes in the wash, it is inside out. It resembles external nature but depicts the inside of the artist's mind. Besides, hanging is common in art not only for the drying of prints but for the exhibition of paintings. Few artists would miss that connotation in the title. Four hundred years earlier Albrecht Dürer depicted the same process in an etching but with an angel holding a 'print' of Christ, as I have explained in its own entry. ... Sloan presents himself as a woman; Dürer as an angel, male but looking female. Watch out for similarities like these (left) because they can help make sense of art."