Urban Realism and the American Scene
William Glackens (1870–1938)
Bal Bullier, c. 1895
William Glackens, a Philadelphia native, was inspired by the dark colors, expressive brushwork, and ideals of artistic freedom promoted by the artist and teacher Robert Henri (1865–1929). In addition, he was drawn to the urban subject matter and flattened forms that characterized paintings of the French artist Édouard Manet (1832–1883). Bal Bullier, one of Glackens’s earliest oil paintings, prefigures his affiliation with the progressive New York artists known (at first derisively) as the Ashcan school; they depicted a wide range of big-city scenes in a deliberately crude, painterly style. Here, a woman lifts her skirt flirtatiously to reveal her white petticoat as she glances at her partner, stiff in his formal suit and top hat. The mismatched couple in Bal Bullier demonstrates Glackens’s ability to capture not only an urban setting but also intriguing nuances of interaction among people of different social classes.
Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.