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George Bellows and New York, 1900–1930

John Sloan
American, 1871–1951

Barber Shop

Etching and aquatint
Frederick B. and Kate L. Shoemaker Fund, 1975.51

Philadelphia-born artist John Sloan shared with his colleague George Bellows a commitment to realist portrayals of life in New York. Sloan’s illustrations focus on the populace, as opposed to Bellows’ urban panoramas and Louis Lozowick’s interest in urban architecture and industry.

Barber Shop draws the viewer into the daily city life of patrons and employees, who appear oblivious to the viewer’s presence as spectator. The subjects appear in various states of unflattering posture, as in the grimace of the invested barber, the newspaper-reading patron appearing to scratch his stubble, or the patron in the background resting his feet against the counter.

Sloan frequently added to his images wry commentary on his occupation and politics and on gender relationships. In Barber Shop, Sloan displays a countertop copy of The Masses, a socialist publication he edited until his resignation the year after he made this print. The occupied manicurist is one of two females in a male-dominant establishment; the other woman is in a pinup calendar above the barber’s counter.