A co-founder of the Ashcan school, painter William Glackens was inspired by his friend and studio partner Robert Henri to pursue painting as his career. He had been working as an illustrator for Philadelphia newspapers since 1891, and he was taking evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts when he first encountered Robert Henri and several others that would soon form the Ashcan school.
He traveled Europe, along with several other artists, touring museums, painting and meeting with other artists. Though he continued illustrating for newspapers upon his return to New York, he would eventually end this part of his career in favor of paintings. His style of painting was uniquely influenced by the French artists he admired, and his traditional setting of a park or area for outdoor entertainment was usually rendered in the technique of the Impressionists and more modern painters.
In addition to his painting he was also involved in many important groups and art organization during the early years of the nineteenth century, including his membership in "The Eight" and his participation in their exhibitions. Because of Glackens and Henri the group would become known as the Ashcan school and would stage several exhibitions. He was also a participant in the Armory Show of 1913 and as an exhibitor with the Independent Artists Association.
Though his work transitioned away from the gritty, realistic urban scenes that first brought him into the circle of what would become the Ashcan school; he was always considered a member of the modernist art movement for his support and involvement in the many shows and clubs that nurtured each new genre.
His works are in dozens of museums and collections, including the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the National Museum of Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island.