By Nina Sangimino
I think in some ways I’m a failure because people think I’m a painter of barns and a writer of nostalgia… It’s not what I’ve been trying to do. I hate nostalgia. It’s a dreaded disease. 
To view a painting by Eric Sloane of a quintessential New England covered bridge, with its weathered clapboard siding, worn dirt road, and Huck Finn–inspired children fishing in the brook below, one is touched by the familiarity of the scene. But what seems at first glance to be a simple version of Yankee Americana reveals deeper meaning when understood in the context of the artist’s long career. With no less than forty books published during his lifetime, Sloane provided a window into his philosophies on arts, crafts, and American life, expressed through his pictures of our national landscape. To hear the artist describe his life and work in his own words is to understand the complexity of his ambition, which led to his extraordinary accomplishments not only as a painter, but also as a writer, meteorologist, historian, and craftsman.
Born Everard Jean Hinrichs in in New York City 1905, Eric Sloane adopted his professional name to reflect his reverence for both America and his mentor at the Art Students League, Ashcan master John Sloan. Sloane began his artistic career as a traveling sign painter. His 1925 journey in the Ford Model-T that he “borrowed” from his family proved instrumental to his development. Time spent in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, working for Amish craftsmen, garnered Sloane’s deep appreciation for agrarian life, which he studied for later publications such as American Yesterday (1956), Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake, 1805 (1962), and Eric Sloane’s Do: A Little Book of Early American Know-How (1972). Reaching Taos, New Mexico, later in the trip, the vast horizons and panoramas of the Southwest sparked an intense interest in meteorology. He began painting “cloudscapes,” for which he became so well known that in 1976 he was commissioned by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to paint a mural in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. His early literary career included manuals for the US Air Force describing weather patterns, and he became so enthralled with the subject that he enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to understand the science of weather more thoroughly—his distaste for math, however, prevented him from completing his coursework. He also felt that the MIT program had a “lack of romance,” to which a professor responded, “If it is romance in the weather you’re searching for, you would do better to study the almanacs and farm diaries of the Early American.” In 1939, he briefly took a position as broadcast weatherman for the Dumont television station in New York City. “Going downtown to the Weather Bureau to study government weather maps in the morning, back to the television’s station at noon to prepare the show, and then being made up (they all used heavy makeup in those days), took up the whole day and my seven o’clock show left me exhausted after the ‘three-minute’ effort…. Painting was easier.”
Another important moment from Sloane’s foundational cross country drive was his first exposure to flight. In Ohio, he traded a pilot a painting for a flight, and the experience excited his mounting fascination with the sky. When Sloane returned to New York, he took up residence in Coney Island, painting signs and murals for the park and surrounding restaurants and inns. His new proximity to Floyd Bennett Field and Roosevelt Field fueled his interest in aviation, and he offered his services to local pilots painting license numbers and decorative designs on planes. His dual interests in art and air were encouraged by relationships formed during this time: Amelia Earhart purchased Sloane’s first “cloudscape,” and he met Reginald Marsh and other modernists painting the chaos of Coney Island.
Sloane’s passion for early American craftsmanship led to an impressive collection of historic tools, now housed in the Eric Sloane Museum and Kent Furnace in Connecticut. Beginning about 1953, Sloane split his time between Santa Fe and Connecticut, and New England vernacular architecture became a new focus. Painting from memory rather than on site, he considered his popular barn and covered bridge paintings “portraits of a spirit, not pictures of buildings” and believed that “real art depends so little on the subject, so much on the mood.” He explained that his choice of subject, however, was not a means for “nostalgia,” a label he despised, but rather a method of expression:
I have always regarded art as some sort of remembering, contending that painting or writing is primarily communication of the author’s remembrance, so I have really been in the business of reflection…. I regard nostalgia as a kind of disease and I cringe when my paintings are referred to as nostalgic instead of poems of awareness, monuments to meaningful antiquity.
Throughout his lifetime, Eric Sloane was acknowledged for his many and varied talents. He published at least forty books with illustrations, was a member of the prestigious National Academy of Design and Salmagundi Club, and elected a Benjamin Franklin Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London. He exhibited in New York, Moscow, Boston, Denver, Santa Fe, and Tulsa. His paintings are in many important museum collections today, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, New Britain Museum of American Art, Shelburne Museum, and Tacoma Art Museum. Sloane died unexpectedly of a heart attack immediately before the 1985 opening of his New York retrospective, Eric Sloane, N.A., Eighty, An American Souvenir: In Celebration of Eric Sloane’s 80th Birthday. In his final reflection on his life, written for the occasion of the exhibition, he described his ultimate purpose in art, which he had carried through every phase of his work,
We forget much more than we remember, yet the human brain is a computerlike clutter of data, forever waiting to be tapped. A song, a painting, a written sentence, even some sound, or a faint odor can trigger the memory to revive long-lost emotions, fresh as when they were first experienced. In fact, the passing of time often intensifies, making the picture more brilliant. That is why I seldom paint on location, recreating from memory instead.
1. Eric Sloane, quoted in Clyde Haberman and Albin Krebs, “The Good Old Days,” New York Times, August 27, 1979, B2.
2. James W. Mauch, Aware: A Retrospective of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane (Laurys Station, PA: Garrigues House Publishers, 2000), 93.
3. Eric Sloane, Eighty, an American Souvenir (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1985), n.p.
1905 Born February 27 in New York City as Everard Jean Hinrichs to a successful business owner
1919 The Hinrichs family moves from Harlem, Manhattan, to Forest Hills, Queens; young Everard is inspired by neighbors Herman Roundtree, an illustrator for Field and Stream magazine, and Fred Goudy, a master printer and font designer
1922 Briefly studies at the Art Students League where he meets Ashcan masters John Sloan and George Luks; his mother dies in November
1923–24 Studies at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, but is frequently absent
1924 Enrolls in Yale University’s School of Fine Art, but leaves before completion of his first semester: “At Yale, Eric had fun. He didn’t think much of art teachers, though.”
1925 Leaves New York to work as a traveling sign painter; receives free samples of the new manufacturing material Masonite, which becomes his preferred medium for its economy, rigidity, and ability to easily cut to size; arrives in Taos, New Mexico, for the first time
ca. 1925 Begins using the name Eric Sloane, derived from “America” and his mentor at the Art Students League, John Sloan
1926 Marries first wife, Fredginia Le Rouge
1929 His father dies and Sloane inherits the family home in Forest Hills
1931 Sloane sells the Forest Hills home to pay off his mounting debts, and returns to Taos where he lives in the guesthouse of Russian artist Leon Gaspard and associates with members of Taos Society of Artists; “The genius that rubbed off from such contacts has been more valuable to me than anything I’ve ever learned in school.”
1933 Returns to New York City and paints signs and murals at Coney Island; invited to be artist-in-residence at Half Moon Hotel, meets aviators who fly out of nearby Floyd Bennett Field and Roosevelt Field, including Wiley Post, Roscoe Turner, and Bill Odom; uses his experience in sign painting to work at air fields changing license numbers on plane rudders and adding personal emblems to fuselages; friendship with Wiley Post allows Sloane to experience flight and his scientific interest in clouds and weather begins
ca. 1934 Marries second wife, Barbara “Bobbie” Lawrence
1939 Hired as weatherman in New York City
1941 Publishes Clouds, Wind, and Air: “It was in Taos, New Mexico, some forty books ago, that the idea of writing while wending my way back east by automobile seemed credible. Inspired by the eight-thousand-foot view of sky, I had decided to make meteorology and sky painting a life’s work and, after all, the best way for me to learn a subject has always been to write a book about it. That was how my first book, Clouds, Air and Wind evolved.”
1943 Serves as special consultant to Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Airways to Peace: An Exhibition of Geography for the Future,” designed by Herbert Bayer
1944–45 Builds three-dimensional weather model for the American Museum of Natural History, project earns a gold medal from the National Academy of Design and leads to models commissioned by the US Navy for instructional purposes, and a traveling lecture series
1948–50 Serves as editor of Weatherwise, The Magazine About Weather
ca. 1953 Marries third wife, Gina Bertanzal; purchases farm in Brookfield, Connecticut, and develops interest in early American life due to pioneers’ great respect and knowledge of weather patterns
ca. 1955 Marries fourth wife, Lynn Terry, and moves to Washington, Connecticut
1957 Marries fifth wife, Ruth Rohland
1958 Sells Connecticut home to return to Taos with Ruth, later in the year purchases “Weather Hill Farm” in Warren, Connecticut, where he maintains a home for the rest of his life
1962 Elected an artist member of the Salmagundi Club
1965 Marries sixth wife, Miriam Francis Alicia Carman, known as “Mimi”
1967 Elected associate member of the National Academy of Design
1968 Elected full academician of the National Academy of Design
1969 Donates collection of early American tools to Sloane-Stanley Museum in Kent, Connecticut
1972 Elected Benjamin Franklin Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London
1974 Builds a one-room log cabin next to the Sloane-Stanley Museum using only old tools and local materials
1975 Builds a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which he calls “Casa de Las Nubes” (House of the Clouds)
1976 Paints the 58½ by 75 foot mural Earth Flight Environment at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which is still on display in Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall (his mural for the “Golden Age of Flight” exhibition is now hidden behind the main wall in gallery 105)
1985 Dies of a heart attack on March 5th outside of the Plaza Hotel
6. Mimi Sloane, quoted in James W. Mauch, Aware (2000), 42.
7. Eric Sloane, Return to Taos: A Twice Told Story (New York: Hastings House, 1982), 76.
8. Eric Sloane, Eighty (1985), n.p.
Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Colorado
Eric Sloane Museum and Kent Furnace, Kent, Connecticut
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
Laumeister Art Center, Bennington, Vermont
Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia
Museum of Innovation & Science, Schenectady, New York
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut
Portland Museum of Art, Maine
Shelburne Museum, Vermont
Tacoma Art Museum, Washington
University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, Wyoming
The Wings Club, New York, New York
Roosevelt Field Inn, Mineola, New York, Aviation Paintings and “Cloudscapes” by Eric Sloane, December 1940
The Society of Independent Artists, New York, New York, Silver Jubilee of the Independents, April 17–May 7, 1941
General Aviation Supply Company, New York, New York, “Cloudscapes” and Aviation Paintings by Eric Sloane, October 1943
Salle des Champagnes, New York, New York, Paintings by Eric Sloane, March 1945
Abercrombie & Fitch, New York, New York, Eric Sloane Paintings, November 4–18, 1959
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane Paintings, November 24–December 5, 1959
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane Paintings, November 22–December 3, 1960
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane Paintings, April 24–May 5, 1962
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane: An Age of Barns, November 22–December 3, 1966
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane, N.A., December 16–31, 1969
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane: Recent Paintings, October 29–November 16, 1974
USSR Academy of the Arts, Moscow, Russia, 1974
Oklahoma City, Portraits of America, 1974
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane: For Spacious Skies, January 20–31, 1976
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane: “I Remember America,” 1976
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane: Landscapes of New England, December 8, 1976–January 8, 1977
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, Sloane & McCall, Sky and Space, Concept & Dimension, April 11–28, 1978
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane: He Remembers America, Recent Paintings, October 11–21, 1978
Arvest Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts, Eric Sloane’s America: A Selection of Paintings and Pen and Ink Drawings from an Important Private Collection, 1979
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane, The Artist’s Collection: Lands of Awareness, New England–New Mexico Paintings, March 4–21, 1981
Colorado Heritage Center Museum, Denver, Colorado, Denver Rotary Club’s Artists of America: First Annual Invitational Exhibition, September 12–October 11, 1981
Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Eric Sloane, NA, at Gilcrease, May 1–July 6, 1982
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane: An Artist’s Legacy, Selected Paintings from Museum Exhibitions, December 14, 1982–January 8, 1983
Quail Hollow Galleries, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Portraits of America, November 1983
Fenn Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Eric Sloane: East-West, Lands of Awareness, 1984
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane, N.A., Eighty, An American Souvenir: In Celebration of Eric Sloane’s 80th Birthday, March 5–23, 1985
Michael Wigley Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Eric Sloane’s America: Museum Exhibition, Paintings, Artifacts, Tools, 1985
Conacher Galleries, San Francisco, California, Eric Sloane (1905–1985): An American Realist, May 1986
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane, N.A. (1905–1985), An American Realist, December 8, 1986–January 8, 1987
National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, The Eric Sloane Retrospective Exhibition, April 1987
Hammer Galleries, New York, New York, Eric Sloane N.A. (1905–1985): Paintings and Drawings, March 11–30, 1991
Michael Wigley Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Last Ten Years, August 1994
Nedra Matteucci Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Eric Sloane (1905–1985): America’s Painter, October 4–November 9, 2002
New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut, Eric Sloane’s America, June–August 3, 2008
Salmagundi Club, 1962
National Academy of Design, 1967, 1968
Royal Society of Artists, London, 1972
Artist file, Eric Sloane, Miscellaneous uncataloged. LACMA.
Artist file, Eric Sloane, Schweitzer Gallery Files.
Artist file: Miscellaneous uncatalogued material. MoMA.
Ephemera file. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Eric Sloane, artist file, miscellaneous uncataloged material. Baltimore museum of Art Library and Archives.
Eric Sloane: artist file: study photographs and reproductions of works of art with accompanying documentation 1920–2000 [graphic]. Frick Photoarchive Collections
Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico files, 1897–1984. REEL 3188. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Norman Kent papers, 1939–1964. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Sloane, Eric, 1905–1985. Artist File. Cleveland Museum of Art, Ingalls Library.
ERIC SLOANE AS AUTHOR *many of these books have been reprinted multiple times, the list below represents first editions
Jordanoff, Assen, and Eric Sloane, illus. Your Wings. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.
Vetter, Ernest G., and Eric Sloane, illus. Let’s Fly: An ABC of Flying. New York: W. Morrow and Company, 1940.
Clouds, Air and Wind. New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1941.
Camouflage Simplified. New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1942.
Gremlin Americanus: A Scrap Book Collection of Gremlins. New York: B. F. Jay & Co., 1942.
Your Body in Flight: An Illustrated Book of Knowledge for the Flyer (Restricted T. O. No. 00-25-13). Fairfield, OH: Maintenance Data Section, Maintenance Division, Air Service Command, United States Army Air Forces, 1943.
Skies and the Artist. New York: Art Books for All, 1950.
Eric Sloane’s Weather Book. Boston: Little, Brown, 1952.
American Barns and Covered Bridges. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1954.
Our Vanishing Landscape. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1955.
Eric Sloane’s Almanac and Weather Forecaster. Boston: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, and Little, Brown, 1955.
Eric Sloane’s Book of Storms: Hurricanes, Twisters & Squalls. New York: Duell, Sloane and Pearce, 1956.
American Yesterday. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1956.
Book of Storms. New York: Duell, Sloane, Pearce, 1956.
How You Can Forecast the Weather. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, 1957.
The Seasons of America Past. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, Inc., 1958.
Return to Taos: Eric Sloane’s Sketchbook of Roadside Americana. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1960.
Look at the Sky…and Tell the Weather. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1961.
Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake, 1805. New York: Wilfred Funk, Inc., 1962.
ABC Book of Early Americana: A Sketchbook of Antiquities and American Firsts. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963.
Folklore of American Weather. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1963.
Hatch, Eric, and Eric Sloane. The Little Book of Bells. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1964.
A Museum of Early American Tools. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1964.
A Reverence for Wood. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1965.
The Sound of Bells. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966.
Eric Sloane’s An Age of Barns. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1966.
The Cracker Barrel. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1967.
Anthony, Edward, and Eric Sloane. Mr. Daniels and the Grange. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968.
Eric Sloane’s Don’t: A Little Book of Early American Gentility. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968.
The Second Barrel. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969.
I Remember America. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1971.
The Little Red Schoolhouse. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1972.
Eric Sloane’s Do: A Little Book of Early American Know-How. New York: Walker and Company, 1972.
The Spirits of ‘76. New York: Ballantine Books, 1973.
Recollections in Black and White. New York: Ballantine Books, 1974.
For Spacious Skies: A Meteorological Sketchbook of American Weather. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1978.
Legacy. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1979.
Return to Taos: A Twice Told Story. New York: Hastings House, 1982.
Once Upon a Time: The Way America Was. New York: Hastings House, 1982.
Eighty, an American Souvenir. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1985.
Meyer, Susan E. “Eric Sloane’s America,” in American Artist Magazine (June 1977).
———. Master of Yankee America. American Association of Retired Persons. 1980.
Meyer, Kenneth A., and Claudia Meyer. Eric Sloane: Profiles in American Art. Boulder, CO: Ken Meyer Productions, 1982 (video).
Mawdsley, Dean L. The America of Eric Sloane: A Collector’s Bibliography. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Historical Commission, 1990.
Mauch, James William. Aware: A Retrospective of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane. Laurys Station, PA: Garrigues House, 2000.
Fenn, Forrest. Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch: A Personal Tribute to Eric Sloane. Santa Fe, NM: One Horse Land & Cattle Company, 2007.
Wigley, Michael. Eric Sloane’s America: Paintings in Oil. With a Foreword by Mimi Sloane. Mineloa, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 2009.