Written by: Emily Sabens, Public Relations Intern

William Glackens accomplished many feats throughout his life. He worked as a newspaper illustrator for numerous publications on the East Coast. He traveled to Cuba to cover the Spanish-American War for McClure’s Magazine. He was one of the founders of the Ashcan School of American Art. And maybe most importantly, Glackens helped introduce a matter-of-fact realism into the American art scene in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Glackens was part of “The Eight:” a group of artists who wanted to show contemporary American life in their artworks. These artists eventually played an important role in Ashcan School, which focused on immigrants and working-class life rather than the upper class. For Glackens, his works depicted street scenes and middle class urban life, which were contrasts to the 19th century European academic art style.


William Glackens. Girl in Blue Dress1936. Oil on canvas. 28 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches. David Owsley Museum of Art. Gift of the William Glackens Foundation and John H. Surovek, Class of 1968. 1998.021.000

While Glackens did paint many landscapes and scenes, he also created many portraits throughout his career––for example, “Girl in Blue Dress,” which is housed at the David Owsley Museum of Art. This particular painting shows a woman wearing a brilliant blue dress. For Glackens, his portrait subjects were studies rather than just introspective portraits. He also paid careful attention to what his subjects were wearing and their surroundings. In “Girl in Blue Dress,” for example, Glackens accentuates the blue in the woman’s dress and creates a contrast by emphasizing the bright orange chair she is sitting in.

To see Glackens’ “Girl in Blue Dress,” visit DOMA and venture upstairs to the Ball Brothers Foundation Gallery.