Sloan, as part of the Ashcan School made it his goal to realistically depict scenes of urban life. He did, however hold sympathy towards the poor who would have inhabited these kinds of streets. He sympathized with them and believed that their poor state was caused by a society that had abandoned them. This idea of his is clearly represented in Sixth Avenue & 30th Street.
The group in the foreground of the painting, including the drunkard and the prostitutes, would often be seen as negative by most members of society. Sloan, however, takes exception to this. He depicts them sympathetically, giving them a certain level of dignity that other painters wouldn’t have. He believed that these individuals had been abandoned and exploited by society, and forced to take up such low roles. As Sloan was a member of the Socialist party, this came as no surprise.
The gentleman to the right of this group serve as Sloan’s societal criticism. These men represent the well-off of society. They stare at the unfortunate individuals in the foreground, feeling no sympathy but only amused at their state. This represented the overall attitude held by these kinds of people, which, Sloan felt, was a certain unwillingness to assist the worse-of members of society.
On the surface, this piece depicts a standard realist scene of a New York. However, on a deeper level, the piece is a criticism of what he felt was an unfair,...