John Sloan and his artist circle, a group dubbed "The Eight," organized themselves around a commitment to depicting everyday life. This subject, though unpopular with the New York City art establishment, held great appeal for the general public: the Eight's February 1908 exhibition at Macbeth Galleries was seen by more than 7,000 people. Hoping to capitalize on this interest, Sloan turned to a series of actual events in May 1908 as inspiration for this amusing depiction of a pair of artists struggling to use a lithography press. Sloan's first attempts at this printing method were disastrous, his efforts hampered first by old ink and later by the dearth of zinc plates from which to print the image. Nearly a week after borrowing a "small proving press" from the artist Arthur G. Dove, and with the assistance of master lithographic designer Carl Moellman, Sloan was finally able to "run off an impression." The resulting print has the hallmarks of a good lithograph, such as excellent line quality, seen here in the even and deep lines, and overall rich tonality. Sloan's humorous recollection of his struggles testifies to the complexities of the lithographic process and his commitment to making art drawn from his immediate experience.
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