Everett Shinn was a member of the group known as “The Eight,” which included such dynamic painters as Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens and John Sloan, to name a few. These artists began working as a cohesive movement during the early part of the 20th century and were primarily concerned with expressive depictions of social realism in cities, particularly New York. Shinn hailed from a small town in New Jersey which he left in order to study industrial design and engineering at the Spring Garden Institute in Pennsylvania. After completing two years at the Institute he left school began working for a gas fixtures company, yet during this time he also enrolled in art classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as a student of Thomas Anshutz. While studying at PAFA, where he showed tremendous skill, he secured work as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Press. Ultimately he was encouraged by his friend, Robert Henri, to move to New York where he continued work as an illustrator, but more importantly he established himself as a fine artist.
Two subjects on which Shinn focused were the urban lower class and the theater, the latter having fascinated him endlessly. Between 1917 and 1923, he worked as art director for Metro Goldwyn Mayer and various studios and wrote, produced and created scene designs for plays held at his own 55 seat theatre in his New York City home. He created a vast repertoire of oils and pastels depicting dancers, singers, actors, clowns, various performers, etc., which he often presented at an unusual angle or perspective. As in the compositions of ballet dancers and café scenes painted by the French Impressionist Edgar Degas, at times Shinn placed his subjects close to the surface of the picture plane which gave the viewer the effect of actually being at the theater in close proximity to the performers and the action. Degas may very well have inspired the young American artist, nevertheless Shinn’s work was unique at the time and remains so today, instantly recognizable.