Three A.M.

John Sloan, American, 1871 - 1951

Date:
1909

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
32 1/8 x 26 1/4 inches (81.6 x 66.7 cm) Framed: 40 x 34 x 2 1/2 inches (101.6 x 86.4 x 6.4 cm)

Copyright:
© Delaware Art Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1946-10-1

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, 1946

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Label:

On April 28, 1909, John Sloan wrote in his journal: “A good day’s work, painting on the subject that has been stewing in my mind for some weeks. I have been watching a curious two room household, two women and, I think, two men, their day begins after midnight, they cook at 3 A.M.” His scene of underdressed working-class women shocked contemporary audiences, and the painting was rejected by exhibition juries.

Born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, Sloan worked as a Philadelphia newspaper illustrator and trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He moved to New York in 1904, where the views from his Chelsea apartment provided intimate new subjects of urban life.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Sloan was a pioneer in the reformulation of urban iconography and the revised ideal of feminine beauty that characterized much of new American art at the turn of the twentieth century. Sloan, a native of Philadelphia and initially an illustrator for the Philadelphia Inquirer, moved to New York City in 1904. There he joined other artists such as Robert Henri, William Glackens, and George Bellows in an effort to portray the gritty reality of modern city life with humor and pathos. The group would become known as "The Eight" for an eight-man show organized in 1908 at the Macbeth Gallery in New York as a protest to the conservative ideology of the National Academy of Design. Many years later, Sloan would be among the handful of artists from this era retrospectively dubbed "The Ashcan School" for their preference for the grimy subjects of Manhattan's industrial age.

    Sloan based this painting on a late-night view from his Chelsea studio into the window of his neighbors. The palette of warm browns and greens envelops his subjects in a private domestic setting. The woman at the stove stands absorbed in the quiet activity of preparing a small meal, smoking as she listens to the animated chatter of her friend. The proximity of the seated figure to the open door and her extravagantly plumed hat identify her with the bustle of the outside world and provide a contrast to the domestic intimacy represented by the woman cooking in a nightgown and bare feet. In an era of wasp-waisted Gibson girls, Sloan's full-figured woman evokes the robustness of the working class and a more earthy sexuality. The title of the painting reflects an entry in Sloan's journal for April 28, 1909: "A good day's work, painting on the subject that has been stewing in my mind for some weeks. I have been watching a curious two room household, two women and, I think, two men, their day begins after midnight, they cook at 3 A.M."1 Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 39.

    Note:
    1) John Sloan's New York Scene, from the Diaries, Notes, and Correspondence, 1906–1913, edited by Bruce St. John (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), pp. 308–9.