The Ashcan School, an introduction
Populist, expansive, and committed to documentary realism
“I WAS asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon, lo! upsprang the aboriginal name!I see that the word of my city is that word up there,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with
tall and wonderful spires…Numberless crowded streets—high growths of iron, slender, strong,
light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies…Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week;
The carts hauling goods—the manly race of drivers of horses—the brown-faced
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds aloft;
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells—the broken ice in the river,
passing along, up or down, with the flood tide or ebb-tide…The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form'd, beautiful-faced,
looking you straight in the eyes;
Trottoirs throng'd—vehicles—Broadway—the women—the shops and
A million people—manners free and superb—open voices—hospitality—
the most courageous and friendly young men;The free city! no slaves! no owners of slaves!
The beautiful city, the city of hurried and sparkling waters! the
city of spires and masts!
The city nested in bays! my city!”
Too many pictures of ashcans?
Painting true to life
It was really Henri’s direction that made us paint at all, and paint the life around us. The American genre painters Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, and William Sidney Mount had painted life around them, but we thought their work was too tight and finished. There were many other artists drawing for newspapers in Chicago, San Francisco…but they did not turn to painting. I feel certain that the reason our group in Philadelphia became painters is due to Henri. 
Food for starving souls
They say that art is a luxury because of the depression. But I really believe this is the time when people should turn to the artists. Not the artist whose work is selling for thousands, but the interesting work of men who sell their things for reasonable figures. I believe the work of artists, poets, musicians, is a kind of food for starving souls, as necessary as food for the body. Why should we worry about feeding bodies if they have starving souls? That may sound churchy but I don’t mean it so. Select your own soul-food in the way of art.