Catching the drama of news events with speed and accuracy, Everett Shinn began his career as an artist-reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper in the early 1890s. Born in Woodstown, New Jersey, Shinn became a successful illustrator and one of the new realist painters who, at the turn of the century, looked to the modern urban world for their subjects.
In Philadelphia, he worked as a reporter and took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1893 to 1897. At the same time, he met other newspaper illustrators, including William Glackens, George Luks, and John Sloan, who shared his interest in portraying contemporary life. Inspired by fellow artist and teacher Robert Henri, who asserted that anything could be the subject of a painting, the group eventually moved to New York and began to paint scenes of the city. These illustrators-turned-artists, joined by others, were known as The Eight. Their realistic paintings, which often focused on the seamier aspects of city life, challenged traditional academic art, and the group became known as the Ashcan School.
Shinn drew illustrations for New York newspapers and such magazines as Harper's Weekly and McClure's. Using pastels, he portrayed a range of subjects, from city slums to fashionable crowds at the opera. The theater world became one of his favorite subjects. Shinn's paintings of this glamorous realm reflect the influence of Edgar Degas. He painted murals, panels, and set designs for various theaters and worked as an art director for motion picture companies between 1917 and 1923. Shinn spent his career in New York, a city that fascinated him.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]