Eric Sloane -
"The Covered Bridge" ... approx 30" x 35" Painting in Oil by Eric Sloane
Circa 1955 , Original Frame, Framed Dimensions - 40" x 45"
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Eric Sloane was born, Everard Jean Hinrichs on February 27, 1905 in New York City, New York, to a well-to-do family. Early on, he took up an interest in art, spending many boyhood hours with neighbor and noted font inventor, Gaudy (Gaudy Type). From Gaudy, at an early age, he learned to hand paint letters and signs.
Some of his first clients included aviation pioneers flying out of Roosevelt Field, Long Island. Many of those flyers insisted he paint the identifying marking on their planes. In exchange for teaching him to paint, Wiley Post himself, taught the young Hinrichs to fly. After his first flight the young man fell in love with clouds and the sky, themes that would be central to his work for the rest of his life. Among his early clients was Amelia Erhardt, who bought his first cloud painting. Said to be the finest cloud painter of his generation, his largest cloud painting graces an entire wall of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
After a falling out with his family, young Sloane ran away at age fourteen to become an itinerant sign painter. He worked his way across America, painting signs on barns, buildings and stores, all the time gathering images of a country in expansion. He had many interesting adventures. One of his most notable stays was with the Taos Pueblo Indian Tribe, just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
A prolific member of the Hudson River School of painting, it is generally accepted that Eric Sloane was an artistic genius. Over his lifetime Eric Sloane wrote thirty eight books. It is estimated that he created nearly 15,000 paintings over his lifetime, mostly oil on masonite. He painted one almost every day, often before lunch, striving to do better than the day before. Later in his life, he bought back or traded for some of his earlier work, which he destroyed by fire, contending it was inferior.
While restoring a Connecticut farmhouse in the early 1950's he began to identify with the Early American settlers. He first moved to the Lake Candlewood area, then to Merryall, CT near New Milford and in 1956 he moved to Warren, where he kept a home until 1985. It was at a Warren Library book sale that he is said to have discovered Noah Blake's diary, an original account of New England farm life in 1805. With Sloane's unique illustrations and commentary the diary became the framework for Sloane's most successful book, Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805.
In 1975 Sloane built a home in La Tierra near Santa Fe, New Mexico, "Las Nuves" (The Clouds). From these two comfortable residences, "Mr. Americana", spent most of his later life preserving the practical architecture and stoic lives of the first European settlers, in oil paints and in writing.
Fascinated by weather, The Farmer's Almanac and the early American farmer's ability interpret "weather signs", Sloane is credited with being the first television weatherman, having come up with the idea of having farmers from all over New England call in their weather observations to a Dumont, New York TV station where they could be broadcast to the regional audience. He penned several useful books on the subject.
Eric Sloane is also credited with being the foremost authority on Early American rural architecture and Early American tools. His many books of paintings and drawings, and especially his "A Museum of Early American Tools", are considered the most important historical source works on the subjects. The Sloane Stanley Museum in Kent, Connecticut houses Sloane's own personal collection of Early American tools, as well as an exact replica of his painting studio. "A Reverence for Wood" is an invaluable resource to scholars of old growth timber in New England.
In his seminal Americana work, "Spirts of '76", he published his famous distillation of his philosophy,"Declaration of Self Dependence", a harbinger of the renewed concept of personal responsibility in 2nd millennium.
Shortly before the release of his last book, "Eighty", on his way to meet his wife for lunch, Eric died instantly of a heart attack in New York, on March 5th, 1985, on the steps of the Plaza Hotel. Friends say it was the only time he was ever late. He is buried in Kent, Connecticut at the Sloane Stanley Museum.
Sloane was married a total of five times. Little is known by this biographer of his first four wives. His last and longest life partner, Miriam Francis Alicia Carman, "Mimi", born Brussels May 8, 1925, lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Eric's spirit lives on today as if he's determined to keep the invincible Early American Spirit alive. One has only to read one of his books or view his paintings to be touched by his unfathomable human compassion.
During my childhood I often spent countless hours entertaining myself with a pencil and paper or pen and ink. I drew firemen, dragons, army figures, birds, Conan the Barbarian, and all the assorted topics that little boys draw. But the renderings I most enjoyed drawing were those depicting farm scenes and covered bridges - just like Eric Sloane drew. But how is that possible? Seriously, how could a five year old or even a ten year old claim with credibility that renderings of such subject matter be his favorite drawings? I have simply reasoned the following. Those drawings elicited the most favorable response from the only audience I had; my mother and father. They were predisposed to admiring that type of art from their reverence for Sloane’s work. My mother, who recognized an ability in me from the day I learned how to hold a pencil and put it to paper, offered constant praise, encouragement, and support. How I enjoyed the attention and affirmation I was already seeking as a young artist! And so my pen seemed to flow naturally in the direction of Americana renderings - just like Sloane’s.
Oh the places we’d stop along the way! Such memories! Back before my mother’s illness when she could still walk, she would direct my father to pull over along the side of the road, always near the end of one day’s trip as I remember. Dad would stop along the outpost of some long abandoned field. My mother would exit the station wagon to begin scavenging for some rare field flower or cattail or some sort of growth I always considered to be weeds, but she’d make the most beautiful dried flower arrangements from them. “You don’t think the farmer would mind my taking a few of these, do you?” she’d ask my dad. “No ...I don’t think so...” he’d say, caring only for her happiness. Meanwhile, while my mother scavenged and my siblings slept exhausted from a long day driving about, I would find my way to the abandoned wagon shed or other outbuilding, if there was one, to marvel at the structure and ‘to see what the pickens was.’
“M-i-c-h-a-e-l-!” “Let’s go!” my dad would call me back when my mother had gathered enough treasure. He’d never let me take any of my ‘pickens’ with me, if I had any. I cannot tell you why I felt such euphoria after these excursions. Perhaps it is because as a child I was proud to be the only one still awake with the adults during the fading light of an exhausted day. Perhaps even as a child, my burgeoning artistic sensitivities recognized the sanctity of such a pure experience. Whatever the reason, I was always sad to see the day end. But when I made my way into the backwards seat of old Betsy for the journey home, it was over. My mom and dad were too far away to talk to over my sleeping siblings - and I’m sure they had things they wanted to discuss. And anyway, I was always quite busy in my own regard. What the hell are those accursed porcupine type pods that seem to be able to navigate their way under the cuff of your longpants and crowd the area around your ankles and shoelaces with their spiny barbs? Is this infection found in every abandoned field in the universe? Seems so! It would always take at least 45 minutes to remove all the needles from my clothing - and that’s if I still had enough light in the rumble seat to do so. On occasion, I was forced to coordinate my efforts with the fleeting light of rhythmically passing streetlamps. And even when I was sure I’d removed every barb, it still felt like I hadn’t. It was a high price to pay at the time, but my god what I would give to endure the same suffering if I could just go back one more time - watch my mother walk about on her own, investigate an old outbuilding or scour an abandoned field with her seeking treasures and pickens! As I sit here and write, my gut wrenches with the torment and futility of my own hopeless desire. My mother will never walk again. And we will never again share such an experience. But what I can do, and have done, and will continue to do is make durable recollections of these past experiences in oils. It is my way of stepping back impossibly into time to relive the halcyon days of my youth. And I cannot help the fact that my exposure to the artist Eric Sloane since earliest childhood has so much to do with how I now format my desire to paint these recollections. I was affixed a ‘Sloane lens’ shortly after birth - if you will. Out of my control. I probably thought everyone saw things the way Sloane did, the way I did. How would a boy in my circumstance conceive otherwise?
I do not know what chemical processes in the brain control the intake of information, process it, and send it out through the artist, paintbrush in hand standing at the easel. But I do know this, my ‘Sloane lens’ largely governed my initial processes at the beginning of my artistic career. Somehow or other, as a child - and without even knowing what I was doing, I must have reverse engineered a great deal of Sloane renderings and linked their components to the real life farms and fields and fence posts, etc. that I experienced. Then, when I represented these subjects in oils myself, my brain followed the same path back to produce my Original Oil Paintings.
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