Eric Sloane and New England Stone

March 26, 2015 |  by  |  No Comments

Author’s note:  This article appeared in the Spring, 2005 issue of Legacy, the newsletter of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum.  It was written in support of the theme established for the 2015 programming season at the Eric Sloane Museum:  Eric Sloane and New England Stone.

                      The New England dry-laid stonewall: Eric Sloane’s Art

sloane stone walls 1

Stonewalls were often featured in Eric Sloane’s paintings, illustrations and books. In some cases, as in the illustration above, the stonewall was the subject matter. In other cases – and more frequently – Eric Sloane used stonewalls prominently in his artistic works that reflected a more generalized New England landscape. Eric’s treatment of stonewalls can be used to help identify an original oil painting executed by the artist, as well as to help determine when he painted a particular scene.

chapin stone wall

            In this detail from an original oil on panel Eric created in 1959, the treatment of the stone wall in foreground shows how he used dark brown oil paint to simulate gaps between the stones. Many of the stones throughout the wall are comparatively small in size, though there are a small number of larger stones that can be discerned as well. The top of the wall is painted in a nearly uniform height and shades of grays and blues predominate. Most of the stones show the effects of the artist scraping paint with the flat side of a razor blade, a technique Eric describes using in several of his publications. However, in this painting, as in many of Eric’s earlier works, he used the razor blade to smooth the final application of paint. These techniques differ markedly from ones Eric employed during the later years of his life, as evidenced by the detail of the painting below, which Eric completed in 1975:

sloane painting stone wall

          In this detail, Eric’s treatment of the stonewall in the foreground may appear similar to that of the first painting, yet subtle differences confirm a later date of completion. Generally, Eric created many more larger stones that appear much more dimensional than the stones he painted earlier in his career. No longer did Eric employ dark pigment to indicate gaps in the wall; later in his career his used an ebony marking pencil to draw in that feature. Eric also largely abandoned any attempt to create a uniform height in his walls. Stonewalls in Eric’s paintings began to look much more like “thrown” walls, or walls that had deteriorated over time. Two additional aspects found within Eric’s stonewalls that are significant is his use of color and the aforementioned razorblade.

           Throughout the 1970s, Eric expanded his color choices in depicting stonewalls to include browns and greens. The results are quite pleasing as both colors served to simulate moss and lichens found on older, established New England stonewalls. Further, Eric continued to use his razor blade technique to give his stonewalls depth and texture, but he modified it slightly to achieve a more loose, rather than a forced, look. Eric also relied more on an underlayment of pigment, which he allowed to dry before putting the final layer of paint to be worked. Unlike the earlier technique in which Eric only worked the final layer of paint, he was now using the razor blade to both add texture to his stone and to scrape of enough color on some of the stones to reveal the underlying colors.

Much like his treatment of the sky, one can tell an Eric Sloane painting almost immediately by his skill in painting stone.

A new article on Eric Sloane

December 12, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

          This scholarly glimpse into the literary body of work produced by Eric Sloane crossed my desk the other day. Writing in Common –Place, an online journal sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society and the University of Connecticut, author Abigail Walthausen provides some much needed context for Eric’s literary inspiration. In my opinion, there is truth in much of Ms. Walthausen writes, but I have come to view Eric Sloane’s artistic inspirations in a somewhat different light. Much of what Eric was trying to convey in his works on paper and on Masonite was, ironically, an acknowledgement our nation’s progress. This acknowledgement was couched in a philosophical look at loss, and it is that ethos of loss that seems to permeate Sloane’s works. Yes, America has progressed greatly since the founding of our nation, but what have we – individually and collectively – lost during this period? It’s a bold and a somewhat impertinent question the artist asked. It is the question, however, that makes Eric’s point that he was not “longing for a better past” or simply “nostalgic”, but his exploration was more nuanced, more complex.

July 23, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

The IRS 1023 application submitted by the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum has been reviewed by the Internal Revenue Service and the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum is now officially a non-profit organization!  The process was lengthy, difficult – and so worth the effort.  As a 501c3 public charity, the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum can accept monetary donations as well as donations of stocks, bonds, and securities, paintings, tangible property, and many other forms of donations.  As we have practiced since the inception of the organization, no one in the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum receives compensation in any form.  We are strictly a volunteer organization committed to the advancement of Eric Sloane and the museum he founded.

July 20, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

Weather Hill Farm is seeking original pen and ink illustrations by Eric Sloane, N.A. for an upcoming project.  We are seeking images, preferably direct scans but clear photographs are welcome as well – please include how you would like your name(s) to appear in a credit when submitting an image.  Scans or photographs should be clear and bright and saved at a high resolution as a jpeg file.  You may send to or use our mailing address:

Weather Hill Farm

2746 Stein Lane

Lewisburg, PA  17837

Please feel free to contact us with any questions about this project.

July 14, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

An image from the current exhibit The Artist Who Loved the Sky:  Cloudscapes, Weather, and the World of Eric Sloane, which will close October 3rd.  This wonderful exhibit chronicles Eric’s work with the sky and meteorology with a specific emphasis on his original art.  Some early and rare original works of art are included in this exhibit.

July 14, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

An image from the current exhibit The Artist Who Loved the Sky:  Cloudscapes, Weather, and the World of Eric Sloane, which will close October 3rd.  This wonderful exhibit chronicles Eric’s work with the sky and meteorology with a specific emphasis on his original art.  Some early and rare original works of art are included in this exhibit.

March 28, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

A more detailed photograph of the Eric Sloane-designed business card he was using in the 1940s.  These are extremely rare – I have only heard of another in existence, though I have never seen it.  This card is framed along with “Brewster F2A2″ by Eric Sloane, N.A.

March 17, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

The Artist Who Loved the Sky:  Cloudscapes, Weather, and the World of Eric Sloane

Eric Sloane, painter of cloudscapes, c. 1940

            Irrespective of the subject matter, it is Eric Sloane’s ability to represent the heavens in oil paints that defines him as an artist.  It is impossible to pinpoint exactly when and how Eric Sloane learned to so skillfully paint the sky, yet it is my opinion that he was incredibly observant and gifted in his ability to translate what he observed to canvas or Masonite.  Eric Sloane knew, probably more from careful observation than the scant amount of artistic schooling he received, that the sky both reflected the landscape underneath and exhibited its own color gradations over distance (gradations that are completely the opposite of ones found in landscapes).

Eric Sloane said that he “discovered” the sky in Taos, New Mexico, but it took a stint painting murals at Coney Island to apply what he had observed and learned in earnest.  David Martin, owner of the Half Moon Hotel, met Sloane while he was at work on one of the large murals in the amusement park.  Martin obviously took a liking to the young artist, for he offered Sloane the position of “artist in residence” at the hotel.  In exchange for room and board at the Half Moon, Eric Sloane would be required to letter menus and signs for use in the hotel.  How much of that work Sloane was able to accomplish is not known, for Eric Sloane gravitated to the large, blank walls of the hotel.  Eric Sloane was inspired.  The Half Moon Hotel was close to Floyd Bennett Aviation Field, an important hub of early aviation.  Wiley Post, Roscoe Turner, Bill Odom, and other famous and not as famous aviators of the day would often choose to have lunch or dinner at the hotel, sometimes staying the night.  One can imagine the evenings at the Half Moon’s bar, of tales swapped of aviation triumphs and mishaps, all taken in by young Eric Sloane.

   Closing Fast, Republic Guardsman by Eric Sloane, N.A.

          Eric Sloane was able to convince David Martin that large murals of clouds – paintings from the pilot’s perspective – would be a good investment given the hotel clientele.  Of course, Eric would need to spend some time at the airfield researching his subject matter.  Within weeks, Eric Sloane was trading rides in airplanes for painting fuselage art on airplanes.  His perspective, and his artistic focus and direction, changed forever.

In the years leading up to the Second World War, Eric Sloane continued to fly in order to learn more about the world above the one more familiar to most.  Sloane also turned his attention to contributing illustrations to some works on aviation for aviation-related magazines.  He caught the attention of someone at Devin-Adair Company (whether through his association with pilots, time at the Half Moon and Floyd Bennett Field, his illustrations, or through another way remains unclear), the firm that ultimately published his first book, Clouds, Air and Wind (1941).  Sloane followed this volume with contributions to Assen Jordanoff’s Your Wings and Ernest Vetter’s Let’s Fly: An ABC of Flying.  All three volumes were written under the darkening clouds of the Second World War, and the military implications of each were not lost on the Army Air Corps.  Faced with the difficulty of training of young men quickly in the highly technical arts of combat theatre aviation, the Army Air Corps recognized immediately Eric Sloane’s ability to depict cloud forms and illustrate weather phenomenon.  Eric Sloane’s work with the Army Air Corps helped him to hone another skill set:  writing that was simple and engaging, coupled with cartoon-like illustrations that could relay the ideas behind pages of technical information into simple but memorable set of line drawings.   This was a crucial skill set to have, given the audience for which Sloane was writing.  The Army Air Corps used Sloane’s illustrations in several publications including Your Body In Flight (1943 Air Service Command, Restricted).

            Eric Sloane’s work for the Army Air Corps and for a number of civilian aviation related companies is a period in the artist’s life that deserves deeper study and scholarship.  His work was important – vitally so, I would argue – to the men and women (remember the W.A.S.P.s?) who flew during the Second World War and after.  Just this past year a gentleman who visited the Eric Sloane Museum spoke with the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum, telling us of his early years as a commercial pilot flying the South Pacific routes.  There was, he said, little in the way of information or training in flying these new routes.  Instead, he was handed a few books by Eric Sloane as an introduction – and he has been a great admirer of Eric Sloane’s works ever since.  How many pilots, civilian and military, have benefited from Eric’s work?

Following the Second World War, Eric Sloane continued to submit and have published various articles on aviation, clouds, and the weather.  He branched out, being published in magazines as varied as Air Trails, Popular Science, Rudder, and Weatherwise.  Much of his research and many of his illustrations were compiled into book form, spawning his career as an author.  His deepening research interests in the field of meteorology led him to presume that study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was in order, but a brief experience in a meteorology course riddled with mathematical calculations and dull scientific language cured him of that notion.  One of his professors suggested, tongue in cheek, that if Eric Sloane wanted to find “romance in the weather”, rather than mathematic and scientific concepts, Eric ought to consult the early American farm almanacs and diaries.  Eric Sloane took his professor seriously and began collecting in earnest.  It was this passing suggestion that launched Eric Sloane into the next phase of his career, a career for which he is better known – a painter of barns, covered bridges, and of farming scenes.

Eric Sloane never abandoned his love of the sky.  His clouds and weather still dominated his landscapes.  The sky became as central a theme as the landscape below.  He was a keen observer of the sky, of weather, of shadow, and of natural light.  He understood, if not in scientific terms than in artistic ones, how cloud forms and the color of light changed during the course of the days and the course of the seasons.  Winter or Spring, dawn or evening, Eric Sloane’s landscapes are so convincing as a direct result of the artist’s study of, and reverence for, the sky.

Autumn Clouds by Eric Sloane, N.A.  O/P, 38.25″ wide x 28.25″ tall by site

About the Author:  James W. Mauch is the author of Aware: A Retrospective of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane and a member of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum.  Article adapted from the Spring 2014 issue of Legacy, the newsletter of the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum.

March 2, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

Here is an example of an Eric Sloane “foil map” of Roosevelt Field on Long Island. It seemed appropriate to share this image given that, for the 2014 season, the Eric Sloane Museum and the Friends of the Eric Sloane Museum will be working together to help bring more awareness of Eric Sloane’s treatment of the sky, clouds, and meteorology. An important part of Eric Sloane’s work with the sky was his early aviation-related art, his “cloudscapes”, and airport maps like the one that appears below:

March 2, 2014 |  by  |  No Comments

A very early example (c. 1948) of a business card Eric Sloane designed and illustrated.  This particular example was found on the back of an early aviation painting by the artist.