Eric Sloane Remembered
Well-known American painter Eric Sloane died in 1985, but his widow, Mimi Sloane, remembers practically every detail about his life and work as if it happened yesterday. He divided his time between homes in Connecticut and Santa Fe and loved painting the east coast while he was in New Mexico and the southwestern landscape when he was in New England.
He painted totally from memory, Mrs. Sloane explains. His work was all about shapes of light and dark, and he had a way of remembering exactly where the light came from when he worked in the studio. His eye was so quick that he only had to see a scene or object for a minute before it was imprinted in his memory forever.
The Sloanes were married from 1965-85 and spent most of the later part of their marriage living in New Mexico. Sloane, who was born Everard Jean Hinrichs, first set foot in Taos in 1924. Young Everard pondered a suitable name to paint under and selected Eric from the center of the word America; then added Sloane, partly in honor of one of his mentors, John Sloan, from the Art Student League in New York City.
With his new name he moved back to Taos, began painting and lived at the guesthouse of famous Russian artist Leon Gaspard. He also spent time at Taos Pueblo. Depicting Indian ruins was one of his favorite endeavors.
Capturing nature in its infinite beauty was terribly important to Sloane. While he loved the southwestern landscape, he was equally drawn to New Englands quaint beauty. He liked rainy days and darkness. His heart was divided between capturing the sun-filled New Mexico skies, desert plains, and mountains and the moody, deciduous terrain of New England.
He loved rendering clouds,Mrs. Sloane recalls. In fact, there are a whole group of cloud images I call the the telephone paintings because he created them while talking on the phone.
Sloane was a prolific painter who lived life as if he had only 20 minutes left. He could often complete a painting in a day. Visitors, except for his wife, were not allowed in the studio while he worked. Many completed canvases went to galleries while still wet. He wouldnt allow her to hang any of his art in their homes. Part of the reason for this was that he didnt want to look back at what he had done. He was always committed to looking forward. His motto, Mrs. Sloane says, was tomorrow I have to do better than today.
While Sloane lived intensely, he liked the slower pace of life nearly two centuries ago and felt the world of the 1800s represented the perfect balance of what life should be like. He meticulously painted old stone walls by putting a bit of gray next to a dab of darker paint, picking up a razor blade and scraping it through both across the surface of the canvas. A lead pencil was used to delineate the individual rocks carefully. When he painted shingles on an old barn or house, he ran the pointed side of a razor blade through the wet pigment.
I used to watch him paint grass, Mrs. Sloane recalls. He would put three different colors of green next to each other to portray each individual blade of grass. He taught himself how to do this.
Sloane was mostly self-taught, although he attended the Yale School of Fine Arts and the Arts Students League. He believed that schools were places to learn the fundamental principals of art. After mastering the basics, it was time to evolve an individual style away from an academic environment and the watchful eye of other artists. Eric felt there was no such thing as talent, Mimi Sloane states. He felt that you just work at your art.
In 1978 he became friends with gallery owner Michael Wigley and entrusted him with one of his finest exhibitions. In 1983 in Oklahoma City they presented a show titled Portraits of America, containing 30 paintings, all of which sold and many of which are in museums today.
Wigleys Santa Fe gallery is the treasure house for the estate paintings today and he and Mimi have worked hand in hand with the estate, establishing foundation donations, museum support, and retrospective exhibits of the painters and the authors art, writings, and artifact collections.
Sloanes hard work paid off during his long career. His paintings are part of 54 permanent museum collections throughout the world more than any other American artist. In 1974 he was invited to show his work at the U.S.S.R. Academy of the Arts in Moscow by Leonid Brezhnev. To this day he remains the only American to receive this honor.
He established the Hall of Weather at the American Museum of Natural History. His breathtaking mural at the Smithsonians Air and Space Museum is one-half block long and six stories high.
In 1987 the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City held a retrospective exhibition of Sloanes work, with more than 50 paintings. One of his last and the only to be inscribed with his given initials, E.J.H., was acquired by the museum for its permanent collection.
When Sloane wasnt painting, he enjoyed writing. He was a prolific author who created more than 50 books in 50 years.
Eric was a
very generous and trusting person, Mrs. Sloane says. He believed
in painting what was inside him. His entire career was a journey of finding
his own path.