By Michael Wigley
without any influence from yesterdays tradition of concern for tomorrows
needs must reflect an unthinking and dangerous culture. Life
tradition can only produce art without memory; both suffer from
amnesia... Living only in the past produces the disease of
living only in the present produces irresponsibility; living only
in the future is impossible because the future is yet to be. The
real art of living, I believe, is blending equally the past,
and concern for the future. And real art, it seems to me, should
reflect this principle...I am of the opinion that the strange
and unintelligible art generally called modern cannot represent
American culture, since it is not understood by the average American.
Emerson said: Culture is one thing and varnish another.
When shall we learn that culture, like the kingdom
of heaven, lies entirely within us, in the heart of the national
and not in galleries and books? Eric Sloane, from I Remember
The new century, millennium if you prefer, defines the coming
of the next 1000 years. Most certainly, the Age of America
is illuminated in the 20th century and the worth of this nation
as the leader of the world will be greatly remembered by our accomplishments.
The thirst for recollections of the great era in history will grow
as we approach and enter the new century, creating a frenzy for
uniquely American art, literature, theater and culture.
Emblematical of the art of Eric Sloane is the isolation of barns
, covered bridges, stone walls, stalwart implements, artifacts and
tools within his compositions. Such a reverence for the past lens
itself greatly to recording the cultural heritage of America in
a way no other artists of this century has accomplished.
fascination with early twentieth century American art has produced
record prices at Sothebys and Christies Auction Houses
in New York. Maxfield Parrish, John Singer Sargent, Andrew Wyeth,
Maurice Prendergast, William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam paintings
have set record highs and the work of Eric Sloane is no exception.
The focus on Americana is spreading throughout the country and abroad,
especially to Russia, China and Japan. As this century draws to
a conclusion, the emphasis on Americas role in the century
will heighten, along with peoples need to associate and understand
the past. For it is this heritage which Eric Sloane aptly recorded
through his writings, collections and paintings of America.
The history and antiquities of the American culture were the passions
of Eric Sloane. Intent in his devotion to the heritage of a more
reverent era, he spent a virtual lifetime recording the spirit and
majestic beauty of a great America of freedom. Sloane summarizes
his feelings in his book Once Upon a Time, The Way America Was,
on the final page by saying: The spirit and habits of yesterday
became more difficult to apply to modern everyday life. You never
could grow a pumpkin on Main Street but the whole nation is becoming
a vast Main Street. The American heritage, however, is a lot more
than yesterdays pumpkins of romantic nostalgia, and if we
can only mark time with our scientific progress long enough to
old morals and spirits catch up, we shall all be better. The heritage
of godliness, the love for hard work, frugality, respect for home
and all other spirits of pioneer countrymen are worth keeping forever.
What we do today will soon become once upon a time for the Americans
of tomorrow and their heritage is our present day responsibility.
To classify Sloane as a landscape painter would be an inaccuracy.
While he does primarily paint rural areas of Connecticut, Pennsylvania,
structures of farmland America and vast skyscapes of the Southwest,
Sloane is much more. Since his early 20s he has been preserving
our heritage through paintings and writings in a way no pure historian
could possibly achieve. Sloane was a poet, philosopher, farmer,
author and artist extraordinary. His paintings and books were his
raison detre, while his real love affair was
with America and times of days gone by.
began his art career under the tutorial genius of important artists
John Sloan and George Luks at the Art Student League in New York
City. In years to come, Eric Sloane would establish himself as one
of the most respected artist in the world, with a prolific outpour
of paintings and more than 50 books to his credit. His work is represented
in 54 museums worldwide, quite probably a record number.
Seventeen years after his death, the artist is now alive in the
hearts of Americana buffs, art collectors and historians than ever
before. the legacy Eric Sloane left will endure and his spirit will
remain for all generations to embrace during the next millennium.