Red Kimono on the Roof

Red Kimono on the Roof

John Sloan (American, 1871-1951)

Currently on View in K205
Image Licensing

This unglorified glimpse of a woman hanging laundry was probably painted from Sloan's studio window.

Sloan was part of a group of artists who became known as the Ashcan School.

Ashcan School artists recorded the bustling activity of New York's lower East Side.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

This unglorified image of a New York City woman attending to her laundry with a clothespin in her mouth is one of John Sloan's classic paintings. Sloan, who worked as a newspaper illustrator, joined with several of his journalist-painter colleagues to form The Eight, a group of realist artists who opposed the conservative American art establishment of the early 1900s. They exhibited together only once, in 1908, but their controversial show was considered a landmark expression of artistic freedom. Several of the members, including Sloan and the group's founder, Robert Henri, produced images of ordinary Americans. The revolutionary choice of down-to-earth subject matter inspired the epithet that became their name: the Ashcan School.

Sloan believed that the best way to understand life was through direct observation and by associating with working-class people. His slice-of-life paintings recorded the bustling activity of New York City's Lower East Side with broad, vigorous strokes and a deliberate avoidance of sentimentality. Red Kimono on the Roof may be a scene that Sloan saw from the window of his studio, which would explain its elevated vantage point. The picture's sense of immediacy is enhanced by freely applied brushstrokes with few hard edges. In addition, the strong contrasts between the light and the dark shadows suggest the passage of time. John Sloan taught at the Art Students League in New York City and counted among his students such important future artists as Alexander Calder, David Smith, and Barnett Newman.

What a surprise straight, simple paintings about straight, simple things are to the cultured public!
-Painter Robert Henri, 1908

Curatorial Summary

John Sloan was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and moved with his family to Philadelphia where he attended Central High School. He worked for a print dealer and as a newspaper illustrator. Sloan studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he met Robert Henri, and moved to New York to become a part of Henri’s urban realist circle. Under Henri’s leadership Sloan and seven other artists opposed the traditional hold that that the National Academy of Design had exerted over art in America. In 1908 the group, which became known as The Eight, held an exhibition at Macbeth Gallery in New York. Sloan and four other members of the group painted down-to-earth subject matter which earned them the epithet of Ashcan School, because critics felt their art was offensive. The Ashcan School artists recorded the bustling activity of New York’s lower East Side with broad, vigorous strokes and a conscious avoidance of sentimentality. Sloan taught at the Art Students League and passed on his interest in urban subject matter to students like Reginald Marsh and Raphael Soyer, who followed in their teacher’s footsteps.

Red Kimono on the Roof, an unglorified glimpse of a woman, clothespin in mouth, attending to her laundry, may have been painted from Sloan’s studio window, which would explain the elevated vantage point. The picture’s sense of immediacy and direct observation is enhanced by the spontaneous brushwork and Sloan’s attention to light and shadow.


Schiller, Joyce K. John Sloan’s New York. Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 2007.

Mildred H. Lamb, Cleveland Ohio until May 1927; (Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, New York) 11 December 1941; (Kraushaar Galleries, New York, New York); purchased by the John Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1954.

Object Information

John Sloan (American, 1871-1951)
creation date
oil on canvas
24 x 20 in. (canvas)
32 x 28 x 2-3/4 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signature in yellow ochre paint at lower proper right: John Sloan
Inscribed, handwritten in black ink at upper canvas verso: Red Kimona [sic] on the Roof | - John Sloan NY.1912
Inscribed, handwritten in black ink at upper right frame verso: John Sloan [same handwriting as inscription on canvas verso]
Stamped, in black ink at lower center-right frame verso, inverted: MIDWTOWN FRAME SHOP | #351 [handwritten in pencil]
accession number
credit line
James E. Roberts Fund
© Delaware Art Museum/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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