Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue, 1906
John Sloan (American, 1871–1951)
Oil on canvas; 22 x 27 in. (55.9 x 68.6 cm)
George A. Hearn Fund, 1921 (21.41.2)
Sloan and his wife had just moved to an apartment on West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood, just a block and a half west of Madison Square, when he painted this picture. The renowned Fuller ("Flatiron") Building, designed by Daniel Burnham, had been completed in 1902 at the Square's southwest corner and had become a symbol of the new New York. It appears in the background of Sloan's view. The Flatiron Building's twenty-one-story height in relation to the Square's expanse provoked fierce downdrafts of wind. Having witnessed a typical windstorm, Sloan noted it in his diary in June 1906 and described it from memory on this canvas, enlisting work habits he had honed during his years as a newspaper illustrator and revealing his characteristic sense of humor. Although the figures he portrayed are discomfited, there is no hint of the serious hardships that afflicted many American city dwellers in this period.