Ashcan School

Ashcan School

The Ashcan School was an artistic movement in the U.S. during the late 19th to early 20th century, portraying everyday life, especially in poor areas.

The Ashcan School, distinguished by its gritty urban subject matter, dark palette, and expressive brushwork, was an informal group of artists based in New York City, inspired by painter Robert Henri. Embracing the worthiness of immigrant and working-class life as artistic subject matter, they advocated for art that depicted reality rather than elitist ideals. While their subject matter was revolutionary, their painting style had precedents in 17th-century Spanish and Dutch Realism, as well as 19th-century French painting.

Before the Ashcan School, American Impressionism, with its pleasing and idyllic scenes, dominated the art scene. However, the Ashcan School shifted the focus to modernity and artists' expressive reactions to their surroundings, particularly emphasising the dynamic energy of the people. Despite this achievement, the Ashcan School appeared retrograde with the arrival of European modernism in New York through the Armory Show in 1913.

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Parra's studio, with Parra at the centre, his back to the camera as he works on the large painting takes centre stage, showing a faceless blue woman in a striped dress, painted in red, purple, blue and teal. The studio is full of brightly coloured paints, with a large window on the right and a patterned rug across the floor under the painting.