William James Glackens (1870-1938) was an Illustrator and an American Impressionist painter, one of the founders of the Ashcan School of American art, who is considered to be one of the most influential artists in the history of American Art.Glackens reacted against the academic restrictions of his period, combining a vivid impressionism with a firm sense of structure in his work.William Glackens was born in Philadelphia on March 13, 1870. After he completed high school (where John Sloan and Albert C. Barnes were his classmates), he became an artist-reporter for Philadelphia newspapers. He attended night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, studying with Thomas Anshutz. Glackens shared a studio with Robert Henri; in 1895 they worked their way to Europe on a cattle boat. In Holland and Paris they studied the Dutch masters, Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya. On his return to New York in 1896, Glackens worked for newspapers and commenced a long career as a magazine illustrator. McClure's Magazine sent him to Cuba in 1898 to cover the Spanish-American War, which he did brilliantly.
Glackens began exhibiting his paintings in 1901, attracting attention among critics and patrons who were turning away from the conventional standards of the academy. His subjects were café scenes, crowds on city streets, in parks, and on beaches, and people at play in outdoor settings. The influence of Pierre Auguste Renoir and other French impressionists is apparent.
In 1904 Glackens married, and 2 years later he traveled in France and Spain. His work was rejected by the National Academy of Design in 1907. He was one of the group of painters called "The Eight" who exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908. This show marked the end of the ascendancy of academic painting in the United States. Some of the painters in this group specialized in realistic social comment; Glackens remained fundamentally a romantic, his work reflecting a healthy and joyous view of life.
Glackens was influential in helping Albert C. Barnes form his great collection of modern art; the two traveled to Europe in 1912, returning with canvases by Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Renoir. Glackens was one of the organizers of the famous Armory Show of 1913, and he served as chairman of the committee that selected the American entries. Three of his own paintings were shown. He was one of the organizers of the Society of Independent Artists in 1916, which presented exhibitions without juries or prizes.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Glackens's work received wide recognition. The late paintings include imposing nudes, flower pieces, and portraits of members of his family. Basically impressionistic but with a strong sense of structure, these paintings combine sumptuous color, spontaneity of handling, and an increasingly architectural sense of compositional organization in a decidedly contemporary manner. His illustrations, particularly those involving animated crowds of people, exhibit brilliant and expressive draftsmanship, as do a smaller series of etchings of urban subjects. He was not a radical technically; his work was gay, pleasant, and elegant. Glackens died suddenly on May 22, 1938.
William James Glackens (1870-1938) è stato un pittore statunitense. Nacque a Filadelfia (Pennsylvania), dove la sua famiglia viveva da molte generazioni e dove suo padre Samuel lavorava per la "Pennsylvania Railroad". William aveva una sorella e un fratello maggiore, Louis Glackens, che era illustratore e vignettista.
Studiò alla "Central High School" e si diplomò nel 1890. Scoprì quindi di avere una particolare inclinazione e un'autentica attitudine per il disegno. Così, finite le scuole, divenne artista-reporter per il giornale Pennsylvania Record. Nel 1892 cominciò a fare illustrazioni per il quotidiano Pennsylvania Press e frequentò i corsi serali della "Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts", studiando sotto la guida di Thomas Pollock Anshutz.
Nel 1895 partì per Parigi e nel 1898 fu corrispondente di guerra per il McClure Magazine durante la guerra ispano-americana.
Divenuto famoso per i suoi disegni, iniziò a dipingere e il suo primo quadro fu "Hammerstein's Roof Garden" che venne esposto nella galleria Allen di New York.
Glackens fu uno del "Gruppo degli otto" (The Eight), i fondatori della Ash Can School, movimento di pittura realistica (spesso confuso con il "gruppo degli otto" (The Eights) fondato da Robert Henri. Si interessò molto all'impressionismo, subendone palesemente l'influenza, e trascorse molto tempo in Europa. La sua conoscenza della pittura e il suo acuto discernimento fece di lui uno dei consiglieri influenti di Albert C. Barnes, per la sua collezione di quadri.
Glackens rifiutò ogni formalismo accademico e dipinse soprattutto soggetti tratti dalle strade e dalla vita del ceto medio americano.
Morì nel Connecticut, a Westport, nel maggio del 1938, all'età di 68 anni.