Eric Sloane's America
By Michael Wigley

   Art without any influence from yesterday’s tradition of concern for tomorrow’s needs must reflect an unthinking and dangerous culture. Life without tradition can only produce art without memory; both suffer from amnesia... Living only in the past produces the disease of nostalgia; 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, present 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 soul, and not in galleries and books? Eric Sloane, from I Remember America.

   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.

   Collectors’ fascination with early twentieth century American art has produced record prices at Sotheby’s and Christie’s 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 America’s role in the century will heighten, along with people’s 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 yesterday’s pumpkins of romantic nostalgia, and if we can only mark time with our scientific progress long enough to let 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 20’s 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 d’etre’, while his real love affair was with America and times of days gone by.

   He 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.