John Sloan's 1912 painting McSorley's Bar is a vivid and impressionistic reproduction of the clientele at an Irish Bar in New York City.
One of the oldest ale houses in the city and still existing to this day, the pub was the last establishment to retain a ban on women customers and only installed a bathroom for females in 1987. Before 1970, when the establishment was still strictly men-only, McSorley's remained almost unchanged since Sloan's day. The artist, a masterful painter of urban modernity and city-dramas, founded the Ashcan school with likeminded individuals bent on capturing the felt reality of their Chelsea neighbourhood. Responsible for representing the energy and pace of New York before the First World War, Sloan's realist canvases were also firmly imbued with his Socialist principles. Alongside his fellow Ashcan painters Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens, and Everett Shinn, many of which were illustrators or etchers like himself, Sloan went about documenting in figurative reproduction the world outside their windows.
Having first arrived in the city in 1904, Sloan stumbled across McSorley's bar in 1912. Completing a number of sketches and studies whilst whiling away the hours in the dank but cosy haven, Sloan finally completed his McSorley's Bar and presented it to the 1913 Armory Show. Returning a decade and a half later, the artist found McSorley's unchanged. Painting a pair of reproductions from life of domestic scenes with the saloon and the countless cats that then resided in the eccentric place, Sloan painted his final study of the locale in 1930. His Saturday Night at McSorley's, painted during the last years of Prohibition, shows a bustling bar; characteristic of both the artist's distain for city law and his adoration of city life.
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