In Quest of Beauty

The Life and Times of Junius R. Sloan, 1827-1900

Self Portrait 1958
Junius R. Sloan
Self Portrait, 1858,
Oil on Canvas 24 x 18
Brauer Museum of Art, 53.01.121

"The sketching season is near at hand, and during it I shall wander somewhat in quest of beauty"
(Junius R. Sloan, May 5, 1870)

In Quest of Beauty presents the story of Junius R. Sloan, a gifted Ohio farm boy of Yankee stock who became one of the pioneer journeyman artists for everyday mid-America. He provided fine portraits to people in villages and small cities and highly accomplished landscapes to professional and business leaders of Chicago.

Sloan's story shows that he and his circle of family and friends heeded Horace Greeley's call to "Go West, Young Man." They believed in the "Gospel of Beauty", that is that beauty in landscape art is ultimately a reflection of Divinity. His circle achieved their careersthrough mentoring, apprenticeships, and self-education rather than formal schooling.

Junius' voice in art was that of the first American landscape style--the Hudson River School. He stuck to it, even when that style was superceded by European imports and others, and when the American scene was changing from rural to urban. To some extent Junius did keep up with the times by embracing the new "Mirror with a Memory"--photography--and using its growing variations to help him create likenesses and, perhaps, landscapes.

Excerpts from the letters of Junius and of others, their voice in written words, help tell the story. The letters and Sloan's art are drawn from the extraordinary collection of 400 oils, watercolors and sketchbooks at the Brauer Museum of Art, and the hundreds of Sloan family letters, cashbooks and photographs in the Newberry Library, Chicago.