John Sloan’s art fit well with our personal surroundings, once we’d exited the subway from Wall Street and returned home to Greenwich Village. Reba had an apartment in the Village when we first met, and I’d longed to live there since the 1950s, when I’d prowled its bookstores and attended plays in tiny theaters while my ship was in dry dock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Our first home was on Cornelia Street, and with its Italian bakery, small restaurants, coffee shop, frame shop, and artists’ lofts, it could have been a setting for a Sloan print. We were in love and in love with the Village, so it’s no wonder that two more Sloan prints became our favorites.
A few steps from our door was Washington Square and its Washington Memorial Arch, memorialized in Sloan’s Arch Conspirators (1917, Fig. 3). Atop the arch, a group of six people have brought balloons, beverages, and candles, built a small fire, and are enjoying a mid-winter picnic. Among those present are the artist Marcel Duchamp (wearing a hat and standing at left), the actor Charles Ellis, Sloan with his ever-present pipe, and the instigator of the adventure, the poet Gertrude Drick, who preferred the name of “Woe,” claiming she always wished to say “Woe is me.” This intrepid group of bohemians had broken into the structure and climbed an internal stairway on a mission to liberate the Village by declaring secession from the United States and the evils of big business and small minds. Their proclamation called on President Woodrow Wilson to provide protection to the new country of Greenwich Village as one of the small nations he so passionately defended as he led America into World War I. Fortunately for us, Wilson ignored the petition, the Village remained American, and we owned a quintessential token of our home “town.”