Last week as I was working on my post, “A Rustic Chic Library”, I stopped to revisit some of the books on the American barn written and illustrated by Eric Sloane. And so I thought I would share some of Sloane’s history with you -this prolific artist of the Hudson River School genre.
Eric Sloane was born Everard Jean Hinrichs on February 27, 1905 in New York City to a well-to-do family. He was an artistic youth and some of his early clients were aviation pioneers flying out of Roosevelt Field on Long Island. The artist, Wiley Post, honed the young Sloane’s technique and many pilots insisted he paint identifying markings on their planes. Post also taught Sloane to fly and this would come to have a great impact on Sloane’s art. It was during this period that he became known for his “cloudscapes”. Among his early clients was aviatrix Amelia Erhardt, who purchased Sloane’s first cloud painting. The largest of Sloane’s cloud paintings is installed in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
During his lifetime, Eric Sloane wrote 38 books and it is estimated that he created some 15,000 artworks, mostly oil on masonite. In the 1950’s, while restoring a Connecticut farmhouse, he developed a fondness for the Early American settlers and their way of life. While living in Warren, Connecticut, he discovered a diary written by a man named Noah Blake in which he vividly portrayed and illustrated New England farm life. This was to be a major turning point in Sloane’s career.
Sloane is widely credited today as having been the foremost authority on Early American rural architecture and Early American farming tools. His books, paintings and drawings are considered some of the most important historical source works on those subjects.
The barn paintings may appear trite or even a bit “sweet” to many today. But to me they show the work of someone fascinated by the strength of the American barn – a building which was essential to life in earlier times. His painstakingly detailed barns have a dignified but somewhat lonely air about them – a hushed stillness washed with sepia undertones that soften their imposing presense.
Eric Sloane died on March 5, 1985 of a heart attack while on his way to meet his wife for lunch at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. He is buried at the Sloane Stanley Museum in Kent, Connecticut.
Here are some more examples of one of America’s most rustic chic artists.