John Sloan’s Hanging Clothes (c.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.

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Captions for image(s) above:

John Sloan, Hanging Clothes (c. 1920) Etching and drypoint. 2⅝" x 3⅝".

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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.1 He holds the cloth imprinted with Christ's face in the wind in such a way that it resembles an etching being hung up to dry.  Sloan must have known this image but he need not have been because all of art's processes have been depicted repeatedly over the centuries. He could have seen it elsewhere or imagined it himself.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Albrecht Dürer, Angel with the Sudarium (1516) Etching.

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Even if artists are centuries apart, they still share the culture of Art and its Inner Tradition. For example, both artists convey their mind's androgyny. Sloan presents himself as a woman; Dürer as an angel, male but looking female.2 Watch out for similarities like these (left) because they can help make sense of art.

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of John Sloan's Hanging Clothes (c. 1920)
R: Detail of Dürer's Angel with the Sudarium (1516)

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Notes:

1. See Simon Abrahams, Dürer's Angel with the Sudarium (1516), published on EPPH, 20th April 2010.

2. All angels are male.

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 14 Oct 2013. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.