Introduction: Glackens' At Mouquin's
An introduction to the Ashcan School painter's depiction of two diners at a fashionable New York restaurant.
Book: Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
Art Institute of Chicago. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in The Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago, 2000, p. 107.
William Glackens—a member of an association of artists called The Eight, as well as the loosely affiliated group known as the Ashcan School—was at the center of avant-garde American painting at the turn of the twentieth century. Rejecting the academic standards that ruled the displays at the influential National Academy of Design, New York, The Eight sought alternative exhibition spaces that would allow them to show work influenced by the latest European styles. Ashcan School artists, a subset of The Eight, became known for their realistic urban subjects, including street scenes and leisure activities. Thus, At Mouquin’s, with its technical inventiveness and its focus on the social conditions of modern life, combines interests of both groups.
After a trip to Paris with fellow painter Robert Henri in 1895–96, Glackens began to focus on the depiction of metropolitan settings such as Mouquin’s, a fashionable New York restaurant he and his friends frequented. Doubtless influenced by Edouard Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1881–82; London, Courtauld Institute of Art), Glackens chose to place his two elegant diners before a mirror that reflects the image of the restaurant’s other occupants. The mirror; the still life of glasses, bottles, and a vase of flowers; and the sheen of the woman’s blue dress and gray cloak all indicate the artist’s fascination with the play of light on reflective surfaces. Another link to the work of Manet, and that of his colleague Edgar Degas, is the melancholy, abstracted gaze of the woman, who seems to have withdrawn from the convivial gathering. Perhaps Glackens intended to make a social commentary; many contemporary writers maintained that anomie was one of the psychological consequences of rapid change in European and American cities.