William Glackens
American, 1870–1938
At Mouquin's

Oil on canvas
122.4 x 92.1 cm (48 1/8 x 36 1/4 in.)
Signed, lower left: "W. Glackens"
Friends of American Art Collection, 1925.295

French-inspired food and vintage wine impressed New Yorkers who frequented Mouquin's restaurant, depicted by William Glackens in this 1905 painting. The restaurant was as fashionable and French as Glackens's technique, which was derived from the French Impressionists' spontaneous and direct method. In the mirrored café sits Glackens's friend James Moore, a lawyer and man-about-town. He leans toward a lavishly dressed woman whose identity is unknown; she may be one of the young women with whom Moore kept frequent company and whom he called his "daughters." Another friend and Glackens's wife are reflected in the mirror.

Despite the gaiety and glitter of the setting, the two principal figures seem preoccupied, even withdrawn. In the late 19th century, artists often depicted introspective figures, perhaps to convey their sense of dislocation in a rapidly changing, industrialized world. Art critics in New York and Chicago responded negatively to the distracted, drinking pair. Some saw the picture as "sensational" and "vulgar" because it portrayed alcohol and sexually suggestive socializing between men and women. Although this type of scene was commonplace in French painting by the turn of the century, American audiences and artists were only on the brink of accepting such sophisticated scenes of modern life in art.

William Glackens was one of the Eight, a group of artists who struck out on their own with modern—and sometimes gritty—portraits of the urban population painted in a bold, loosely brushed style. Unlike the scenes of immigrants and slum life preferred by some of Glackens's colleagues, causing critics to dub the group the Ashcan School, Glackens's retained a preference for fashionable upper-middle-class types and the world of popular entertainment.