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Louis B. Sloan–PAFA announces memorial service

Gathering Storm Over Philadelphia* by Louis B. Sloan. Oil. 39" x 49". Image taken from
Gathering Storm Over Philadelphia* by Louis B. Sloan. Oil. 39″ x 49″. Image taken from

About a month ago, I learned that beloved PAFA teacher and mentor Louis B. Sloan had died, from Celestine Wilson Hughes. Sloan, while he taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was inspiration and mentor to many of the African American artists who are successfully working today, including Barkley L. Hendricks, whose solo exhibit The Birth of Cool, scheduled to appear at PAFA in Fall 2009, is now up at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and who we mentioned the other day was named a USA Fellow (post here). I know that he influenced Moe Brooker as well as Richard Watson, James Brantley, and Ed Hughes, to name a few of his loyal following. I’m sure there are tons more.

I haven’t had much luck in finding someone to write about him, largely through my own lack of time and energy. I’ve also been looking at the Inquirer for an obit, but none has come up.

Turns out, there was an obit in the Philadelphia Daily News. Unfortunately, the item quoted only a few white art teachers there. But it seems to me that Sloan’s most important legacy besides his art work is his students who have gone on to careers in art.

I did find this blog post by anthe, whose posts I’ve come upon before in looking for info about African American artists.

And today PAFA announced a memorial service. Here’s the press release:


Memorial Service To Take Place and Exhibition to Open on December 14

PHILADELPHIA–In honor of painter and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) alumnus and teacher Louis B. Sloan, who passed away on October 15, the Academy will be hosting a memorial service on December 14, 2008 with an exhibition to open on the same day in the Historic Landmark Building (118 N. Broad St.).

PAFA alumnus and former student of Sloan’s, Barkley L. Hendricks, whose first career retrospective, The Birth of Cool, will travel to the Academy in October of 2009 reflects, “Lou Sloan was one of my major influences at PAFA and when I heard he had died, I had a sinking feeling in my heart. I loved the man. He was a friend and a fantastic instructor. I’ve always said that Lou was one of the best painters on the planet.”

Sloan was originally encouraged to study at the Academy by instructor Julius Bloch and alumnus Jack Bookbinder, the head of art programs for the Philadelphia public schools. Sloan went on to receive the Philadelphia City Council Scholarship in 1952 and attended PAFA from 1953 to 1957. In 1955, Sloan’s painting “Back Yards” was acquired, a remarkable achievement for a student to be added to the collection midway through his studies. A year later, Sloan was awarded PAFA’s J. Henry Schiedt Traveling Scholarship.

Sloan worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1961 to 1980. At PAFA, he taught still life, landscape, portrait and figure painting classes from 1962 until his retirement in 1997.

Sloan was honored on May 6, 2005 with PAFA’s third annual Distinguished Alumni Award. During his career, he received many other prestigious awards including the Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant, PAFA’s Jennie Sesnan Gold Medal, the Emily Lowe Grant, the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and the James Van Der Zee Award from Philadelphia’s Brandywine Workshop. Sloan is represented in PAFA’s permanent collection as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The African American Museum in Philadelphia, Woodmere Art Museum, and numerous private collections.

In 1997 Felicity R. and Peter A. Benoliel established the Louis B. Sloan Landscape or Still Life Prize in his honor. This endowed prize is awarded to a PAFA student entering the third year who works primarily as a landscape or still life painter, preferably in the plein-air tradition that was the core of Sloan’s teaching.

Sloan’s PAFA colleague Dan Miller states, “There have been few faculty members more beloved by students than Lou. His gentleness and concern were legendary, and his ideals were of the highest.

“Lou’s influence on students was profound without being forced. His attitudes were transparent, and yet he was open to the vision of others. It was an enervating and enlightening experience to watch Lou paint. Few artists ever applied pigment to surface more sensitively or naturally.”
Gathering Storm Over Philadelphia* by Louis B. Sloan. Oil. 39″ x 49″.

The memorial exhibition of Sloan’s work will be on view from December 14, 2008 through March 8, 2009 and is being organized by guest curator Lewis Tanner Moore, a member of PAFA’s Exhibitions Committee. The exhibition will open on December 14 at 1:00 p.m. and there will be a memorial service in the Rotunda of the Historic Landmark Building at 2 p.m.

A 56 page, full color publication will accompany the exhibition.

Contributions for the Lou Sloan Memorial Fund are welcome. Funds will initially support the exhibition and publication; surplus will be placed in a Louis B. Sloan Memorial Scholarship. The Scholarship will support underrepresented students seeking full-time study at PAFA.