At the Theater with Everett Shinn

Hello friends. This post was supposed to go up yesterday for Music Monday. I planned to write it when I got home from work but something came up that put me in a crummy, unsettled mood. It’s not a big deal, I just have a sensitivity to old unwelcome emotions being stirred up. So I sulked most of the night and neglected my blog 😦

I wanted to share these images of Everett Shinn paintings. Shinn was a member of the Ashcan School, a talented group of American realist painters who explored urban subjects and daily life in New York City. Although not an organized group in any official way, the Ashcan artists shared an interest in city life and the social conditions of the time. Portrayals of gritty, unvarnished realism was the driving focus for most of the Ashcan artists. Subjects such as tenement buildings, beggars, drunks, and street scenes were prevalent.

Although the great Robert Henri is considered the “founder” of the Ashcan school, its other members, many of whom studied under Henri, produced works of great atmospheric impact, authenticity, and skillful execution. Everett Shinn, the youngest of the group, was an impressive figure. Handsome, well-trained, and visually astute, he worked at various times as an illustrator, theater set designer, fine artist, and even an actor and playwright. It was Shinn’s extensive experience in the theater that allowed him to create marvelously vivid works of vaudeville scenes and downtown theater performances, all of which were thriving in New York City in the early 1900s. Shinn’s depictions really transport you into the seats, crowds, and intimate, informal atmosphere of colorful theater life.

This is one of my favorite Shinn paintings. Spanish Music Hall from 1902, oil on canvasboard. See the entry for this work at the Metropolitan Museum website for some nice zoom-in details. Love that dress!

The Orchestra Pit, Old Proctor’s Fifth Avenue Theater, from 1906. Interesting angle and perspective. It should come as no surprise that Shinn was a great admirer of Edgar Degas. Read more background about this painting at the Yale University site.

This is Revue, from 1908. Shin captured the performer’s gesture perfectly and gave the white costume, ornate hat, and woman’s face all the light and attention, yet his background darks are not so dark to appear muddy or dingy. It’s all beautifully done.

Check out this great platinum print of Everett Shinn. Kind of sexy 😉 Here’s another informative page and a terrific blog post on Everett Shinn. Very interesting guy in many ways. I think we’ll be seeing more of him, and his Ashcan buddies, on Museworthy again in the future.

14 thoughts on “At the Theater with Everett Shinn

  1. Andrew says:

    I think Orchestra Pit is by far the strongest piece. I love the perspective, drawing me into the scene like I’m looking over the musician’s shoulder.

    Ashcan School is such a cool label, though it implies a grittier subject matter than those presented by Shinn.

  2. As Andrew notes, ‘Orchestra Pit’ is quite strong but the following work, ‘Revue’, moves me the most and brings back memories.

    The Olympia Theatre, in Miami, Florida: I was raised down there and still remember the Olympia would present vaudeville in the very late forties or the early fifties between movies. For a seven or eight year old, it was magic. Later, as a teenager, I ushered there for something like forty cents and hour but alas, the vaudeville shows were gone.

    Excellent choices, as usual, Claudia!

  3. Bill MacDonald says:

    Great posting — I was particularly interested in “Spanish Music Hall” — particularly a comparison/contrast with Sargent’s “El Jaleo”. Similar subject matter, and even some similarities in composition, but. . .

  4. Kimberly Adams says:

    I agree that these paintings aren’t what I think of as “Ashcan”, in part because they are simply more high society and they find beauty in more traditional subjects. Some of the background colors are a little “ashy” in the literal sense. Beautiful, though.

    • artmodel says:


      Yes the name “Ashcan” suggests not so pleasant imagery. Shinn’s paintings here are certainly more beautiful than the gritty implications of the name.

      Thanks for your comments!


  5. CHRIS HAJIAN says:

    Lovely works… I wasn’t very familiar with the Ashcan School… Is there any relation between ” The Eight” with the ” Les Six” composers. I wonder…

  6. Thanks for the introduction to Shinn’s paintings! (and dashing looks) It’s kind of odd that I never looked at them before, because when I was little, my parents came back from some flea market very excited – they had found a Shinn drawing, cheap, that the seller had no idea what it was. So there’s been a Shinn drawing in my life for most of my life. It’s a naked adolescent girl sitting on a bed, lit from below, hunched over, with her hands between her knees, staring at the viewer. Very spooky. And yet it never occurred to me to look up his paintings…

    • artmodel says:


      What a great story! Awesome that there’s an original Shinn work in your family. Thanks for sharing. And yes, he was quite dashing in his looks. Good looking fella 🙂


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