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The Eight was a group of artists from Philadelphia and New York that came together after being rejected from the 1907 spring exhibition at the National Academy. In the winter of 1908 the rejected artists united and created their own exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City. The show received a tremendous public response, changing the course of American art, as we know it.
The Eight cannot be defined by a particular style or aesthetic, but by their philosophy and desire to counter the academic restrictions imposed on artists. Five artists of The Eight later formed the historical Ashcan School of painting, known for depicting poor neighborhoods of New York City. After the exhibition’s debut at the Macbeth Gallery, a New York journalist coined the term “The Eight” in his review of this monumental moment in art history.
The members of The Eight included: Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, John French Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson and Maurice Prendergast. The Eight was led by Robert Henri, a painter from Philadelphia who moved to who moved to New York 1900. Henri joined the National Academy in 1905, studying for two years before challenging the institution’s standards.
The Eight received a lot of attention after their first exhibition, but not all positive. Many critics thought their work was inappropriate or unrefined. Audiences were not used to seeing negative depictions of American life, including overcrowded tenements, gritty street scenes and poverty stricken immigrants.
Many of The Eight worked as illustrators for newspapers, providing on-site sketches before photojournalism took off. Consequently, the artists were not accustomed to painting idealized scenes, but the harsh realities of American life. This became an overriding theme of the Ashcan School, formed by Henri, Glackens, Luks, Shinn and Sloan. Lawson and Prendergast were categorized as landscape painters and Davies was grouped as a Symbolist.
The 1908, Macbeth Gallery exhibition was the only time The Eight formally showed together. The show did however tour the country, affiliating itself with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where many of the Philadelphia artists had previously studied under instructor Thomas Pollock Anshutz.
The Paintings of The Eight are now in museums and private collections around the world. The Eight are particularly important for changing the course of art, diminishing the popularity of American Impressionism and giving more artistic freedom to painters. Do you think you own a painting by The Eight? Contact us. We are the experts on The Eight.