Becoming Eric Sloane

In 1925, the troubled young American artist hit the road in search of a new start. Born Everard Jean Hinrichs, the son of German immigrants, he suffered a lengthy series of struggles and setbacks that led to his decision to head west and explore the country his family had adopted. Ostensibly borrowing the family’s neglected Model T, Hinrichs fashioned counterfeit license plates and left all he knew in New York City. Trained in painting and lettering, and inspired by the boundless vistas of the Hudson River School movement of romantic landscape art, he planned to work his way across America as a freelance sign painter while learning the moods and history of the land.

Hinrichs’ ancestry and ability to letter in Old German endeared him to the Amish of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with whom he stayed and worked for some time. He was struck by the simple beauty of their well-crafted timber and stone barns, and discovered the traditional barn lore kept alive in those communities. Hinrichs here became acquainted with hand-tool woodworking, and the deep reverence that the Amish possess for the land, for faith, and for community – values that stuck with the young man all his life.

As the old Model T continued its westward journey into Ohio, Hinrichs decided to implement advice that an art school mentor had given him years earlier – adopting a pen name. This alias enabled a young artist to practice creative exploration without later being saddled to early, faltering works; he could simply move on from the name once skills and technique had been developed. Hinrichs borrowed and altered the last name of one of his early teachers, John Sloan, and Americanized his own first name (literally, by pulling the letters from the middle of the word “America”) to create the persona that would become familiar to millions. Everard Hinrichs became Eric Sloane.

–Michael Updegraff, excerpt from “An Overwhelming Call: The Life & Work of Eric Sloane,” in Issue Five


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