Art Term

Ashcan School

Ashcan School was a group of North American artists who used realist techniques to depict social deprivation and injustice in the American urban environment of the early twentieth century

Spearheaded by the painter Robert Henri, the artists described themselves as urban realists, devoted to the realistic depiction of life in the same way journalists and novelists were writing about the harsh conditions of the poor. The group’s name came from a drawing by the artist George Bellows depicting three vagrants scrutinising the contents of an ash can.

Beginning in the late nineteenth century and coming to prominence around 1910, the movement lost momentum in 1913 when European modernism exploded onto the American art scene and the group’s realism, in the face of cubism and fauvism, began to look dated and out of touch.

Artists associated with the Ashcan School include Robert Henri, George Bellows, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast and Arthur B. Davies.