William Glackens is not well-known outside the United States of America, although during his lifetime he was known as “America’s Renoir” and perhaps he should be better known. The Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale has a major collection of his works donated by his son and is currently showing what is described as “the first comprehensive exhibition since 1966 of this key American artist”, an exhibition presented in collaboration with the Parrish Art Museum and the Barnes Foundation, where the exhibition will also travel. The exhibition cover’s Glacken’s career, with works from the mid-1890s to the late 1930s. A strength of the exhibition is that it covers several different elements, in particular both his paintings and also his drawings, for it was with the latter that he started his career, initially as an artist reporter for newspapers in Philadelphia and then New York, and in 1898 he accompanied the U.S. Army to Cuba to record the Spanish-American War for McClure’s magazine in some dramatic and realistic war drawings. He was also commissioned by Frederick J Quimby to prepare illustrations of the risque side of Parisian life to accompany publication of the comic novels of Charles Paul de Kock’s, as also was one of his fellow students in Philadelphia, John Sloan.
His paintings are much more free-flowing and light in style than his illustrations. Glackens travelled around France and The Netherlands in 1895, after which he moved to New York, where he continued working as an artist-reporter, magazine illustrator, and painter, giving up illustration in order to devote himself to painting in 1904. He made a second trip to Europe in 1906, the influence of which was a change in his work from more muted tones to the use of bright, lively colors, suggestive of the work of Renoir and Monet. This development is his style became stronger as he made more frequent trips to France, including a 1912 journey sponsored by his friend Albert Barnes, who sent Glackens to France as his agent to purchase contemporary French paintings, including works by Cézanne, Matisse, and Renoir, now in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.