Everett Shinn, a painter, illustrator, designer, and playwright who was best known for his images of the theater, was born in New Jersey in 1876. He studied industrial design in Philadelphia from 1888–1890, and in 1893, he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. At the same time, Shinn supported himself as an artist-reporter for the Philadelphia Press, where he became friends with William Glackens, George Luks, and John Sloan, whose style of urban realism influenced Shinn to depict the bleaker aspects of city life. In 1897 he moved to New York to continue his career as a newspaper and magazine illustrator.
In 1890, shortly after his first major one-person exhibition in New York, Shinn and his wife traveled to England and France, where he was drawn to Parisian and British subjects. While in Paris, Shinn was inspired by the theater scenes of Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Jean-Louis Forain. His work changed dramatically; he began to paint performers in action and employ unusual vantage points.
Shinn participated in various New York group shows, including the 1908 exhibition of The Eight at the Macbeth Galleries with Glackens, Sloan, and Luks, and later the 1910 Independent Artists exhibition, in which he included mostly theatrical subjects. His gritty urban scenes linked him to the group known as the Ash Can school, which also included George Bellows. In 1911 Shinn finished a mural commission for the Trenton City Hall, in which he depicted laborers at work among the city’s two major industries, steel and pottery. A playwright and actor, Shinn turned his Waverly Place studio into a theater and founded the Waverly Street Players, which included his close friend William Glackens. Between 1911 and 1937 Shinn rarely exhibited, preferring to explore other interests, such as mural painting and working as an art director (for Goldwyn Pictures, 1917–1920; Inspiration Pictures, 1920–1923; and Cosmopolitan Pictures, 1923). He became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1949 and was inducted in the American Academy of Arts and Letters three years later. Shinn died in 1953 in New York.