A major exhibition offers a fresh look at William Glackens

Editorial Staff Art

  • “Armenian Girl” by Glackens, 1916. Oil on canvas, 32 by 26 inches. The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia and Merion, PA.

  • The Soda Fountain by William James Glackens (American, 1870-1938), 1935. Oil on canvas, 48 by 36 inches. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Joseph E. Temple and Henry D. Gilpin Funds 1955.

  • Installation view at Nova Southeastern University’s Museum of Art, Fort Luaderdale. Photograph by Steven Brooke.


  • “Captain’s Pier” by Glackens, 1912-1914. Oil on canvas, 25 1/8 by 30 1/8 inches. Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME, Gift of Stephen M. Etnier, Honorary Degree, 1969. 


“Glackens combines greatness as an artist with a big man’s mind,”  

Alfred C. Barnes

By the time it arrives at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia next fall the big William Glackens (1870-1938) exhibition that has just opened at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale will have altered the reputation of this surprisingly versatile artist. In the view of the show’s curator Avis Berman, a regular contributor to Antiques, the eighty-five works on display establish the artist as far more experimental, subtle, and yes, modern,  than he has heretofore been credited with being. Of course readers of this magazine we were already aware that there is a great deal more to Glackens than conventionally thought thanks to Berman’s excellent articles on his work here (March/April 2011 and January/February 2014).

Avis Berman

The traveling show and its catalogue, edited by Berman, will also put on view the things that make her a valued contributor to Antiques: the depth of her scholarship, her felicitous prose, and her gift for vivid and original observations on artistic technique. Her current work on Glackens dates to the fall of 2010 though she was already aware that his five decade career was, she says, a neglected aspect of early American modernism, her field of expertise. What viewers will now see is that Glackens was an artist who continually experimented with color, form, technique, and subject matter looking back to Manet and Whistler at first, looking around him at Robert Henri and the other members of his circle, and inspiring in turn the admiration of an abstract expressionist like Hans Hoffman.

Although the Fort Lauderdale museum has the country’s largest repository of Glackens’ work (see Berman’s March/April 2011 article for an explanation of how this bequest of some 500 pieces came about), the show is drawn from a great many institutions and private collections across the country; several of the works will be on view for the first time in many decades. Its next venue, the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York was chosen in part because Glackens paintings of nearby Bellport, Long Island are among the works being exhibited. That the tour finishes at the Barnes is entirely appropriate; the founding core of Alfred Barnes’ superb collection was purchased for him by his high school friend William Glackens and adds another dimension to the artist’s career-that of tastemaker.

Exhibition tour schedule

NSU Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida   February 23-June 1, 2014

Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York  July 20-October 13, 2014

Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania   November 8, 2014- February 2, 2015

The catalogue is published by Skira Rizzoli