The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
To his critics it was “voyeurism”; to John Sloan (1871-1951), the American Realist painter, it was simply dispassionate observation, the kind that occurs between an artist and his model. If the model was not aware of being a model, so much the better: Sloan wanted natural, not contrived, scenes. He wanted to capture his subjects as they are when they do not know they are being observed; in other words, he wanted “reality.”
Sloan had the ideal studio for this kind of painting: A rear window on the top floor of an apartment building at 165 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea district of Manhattan. He and his wife Dolly had rented the space in the somewhat seedy neighborhood for $50 a month in 1904 when they had arrived in New York from Philadelphia. The arrangement was ideal: not only was the apartment on the top floor, but it had a skylight. And, although the front of the apartment overlooked the noisy, congested 23rd Street, they chose that as their living area. The back was reserved for Sloan. Without his being observed, he could look from his rear window into the rear windows of the buildings on 24th Street and beyond, as far as his eye could see. All around him he could feel the throb of life in a large city, the ceaseless background hum of its energy. Virtually all of lower Manhattan was his studio, all of its inhabitants potential models; and he was the invisible mover.
Southgate MT. The Cot. JAMA. 2006;296(3):256. doi:10.1001/jama.296.3.256