1865 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
1929 (New York City)
Often Known For
portrait and social realist genre painting, teaching
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Categories of Interest
New York Armory Show of 1913
Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900
Taos Pre 1940
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati, Ohio, Robert Henri became one of the
leading personalities in American art, known for his teaching skills,
ethnic portraits, especially spirited children, and insistence that
artists should adhere to social realism and give rein to their own
artistic instincts. |
During his growing up years, he lived
between Cincinnati and Cozad, Nebraska, founded by his father John
Jackson Cozad, a gambler and real estate promoter. When Robert was
about 10 years old, his family moved to Cozad in
Dawson County. Tension existed between John Cozad and the established
ranchers who resented development, and a rancher attacked Cozad, who in
self defense shot the man to death.
Fearing for his life, he,
his wife and two sons sneaked out of town and re convened in Atlantic
City where they disguised their identity by taking other names. The
father was later cleared of the charge, but he changed his name to
Richard H. Lee, and passed his two sons off as adopted children named
Frank Southern and Robert Henri. Robert chose a variation of his middle
name to rhyme with "buckeye" to symbolize his Ohio roots. From Atlantic City, as a young man, he attended boarding school in New York City.
having shown early art talent, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of
Fine Arts as a student of Thomas Anschutz and Thomas Hovenden and was
much influenced by the realism of Thomas Eakins, previous Director of
the Academy. Eakins had been fired from this job for teaching nude
drawing and anatomy by those academicians who wished to remain with
classical approaches to art.
From 1888 to 1891, Henri went to
Paris and attended the Academy Julian, who curriculum offered much
freedom from academic strictures. He was also accepted at the Ecole des
Beaux Arts. In 1891, he returned to Philadelphia for several years and
studied again at the Academy. He became closely associated with John
Sloan and William Glackens and taught at the Pennsylvania School of
Design for Women and emphasized originality and painting without regard
to earning money from it.
For awhile, he painted in the
Impressionist style he learned in France but changed to the more
realist style of Dutch painter Franz Hals.
In 1902, after
several more years in Europe, he taught at the Chase School of Art and
the New York School of Art, and Sloan and Glackens, subscribers to his
theories, also came to the city. From that point, Henri led the fight
against the Academics. In 1909, he established his own art school, and
the organization of "The Eight," a group of artists that, in 1908
publicly rejected what they viewed as restraints from the National
Academy of Design. Those who opposed the National Academy of Design's
ideals believed art should be relevant to contemporary and everyday
life rather than be created for "popular taste." This philosophy translated to artwork became
known as Social Realism.
From 1925 to 1928, Henri taught at
the Art Students League, and encouraged his students to have confidence
in their own instincts and to focus with sympathy on their subjects. He
asserted they should ignore prevailing styles such as Impressionism and
Academism and preached tonal rather than colorist styles and a
technique of painting quickly in a slashing manner to capture the
strength of the moment. A group of artists banded with him to be called
the Ashcan School by others because of their depictions of the less
pleasant side of life in New York City, thus Social Realism. A book
titled The Art Spirit is a compilation of his teachings and letters
and summarizes his attitudes towards art.
He was an early
visitor to the West and Southwest, primarily New Mexico with occasional trips
into Arizona. He first visited California in 1914, when he was in San Diego as coordinator to plan an art exhibit extension of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held first in San Francisco in 1915. During this time he lived in La Jolla and did portraits of Indians, the black youngster who sold papers at the train depot, Chicanos, Chinese and other ethnic types. In September of 1914, he exhibited 14 of these paintings at the Museum of History, Science and Art in Los Angeles. He returned to San Diego the following year and also went to San Francisco where he was awarded a silver medal at the PPIE.
Santa Fe from July to October, 1916, and
returned in 1917 and 1922. However, he was not content to stay in the
that part of the country because he missed the activity of New York
City. In Taos, he became a member of the Taos Society of Artists.
During these trips, he painted about 240 major works, about half of
them Indian subjects expressing his ongoing interest in diverse types
of people. He also painted landscapes, many of them in pastel, and he
often turned to landscapes to relax from a difficulty with a portrait.
Nicoll, J. Robert Henri & His Circle,
"The Allure of the Maine Coast", American Art Review, Vol. VII No. 4, 1995.
Mari Sandoz, Son of a Gamblin' Man
Archives, Sheldon Memorial Gallery, University of Nebraska
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Written by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier
|Biography from Abby M Taylor Fine Art:|
|“Revolutionary,” an “insurgent” from birth, an “emancipator,” an
“inspired teacher” and “typically American,” Robert Henri had a
personality, beliefs and actions that fit all those descriptions.
More than any one characteristic, Henri was true to himself and had the
integrity and candor to be an apostle of artistic individuality and
freedom of expression. Devoting his life to painting realism in
an unrestrained manner, he remained a dynamic, thoughtful
teacher. He helped organize “The Eight” and his protagonistic,
candid articles and books promoting the unencumbered, limitless
artistic spirit inspired new generations of painters, thinkers and
Espousing radical ideas right from the beginning of
his artistic career, he had a lot to say about aesthetic deliberations
and a lot of people listened to him. His revolt did not lead him
into a world of abstractions as it did many other painters of his day,
but into artistic parameters of his own making. "Let's dust off a lot
of the old rules and notions about art, he said, and get a fresh
start." His open suspicion as he got going in his career was that
academic training strangled creativity. Not that he wished to
turn his back on the virtuosity of the Old Masters or on the ingenuity
of his own contemporaries who were products of academies. His
sense of the importance of what was going on in French painting at the
time was too keen for that, and he was also well aware of the
excitement that comes anew with each personal discovery of the marvels
of a Goya, a Hals, a Rembrandt or an El Greco.
His idea was this: let all great painters of the past guide but not
dominate the rest of us. Art, especially American art, has been
in the stifling sway of European salonniers and academicians for too
long. It is time for America to create her own artistic
language. He even had a straightforward but passionate definition
of what art — that highly inscrutable concept — was all about. Art when
really understood, he said, is the province of every human being.
It is simply a question of doing things, anything, well.
Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1865, he came to Dawson
County, Nebraska at the age of eight. His father, John J. Cozad
founded the town of Cozad in 1873. The outcome of a legal dispute
with neighbors ended with a death and caused the elder Cozad to leave
Nebraska in 1882. His family soon followed. The family settled in
Atlantic City, New Jersey. A friend visiting the family in
Atlantic City admired what he saw of Robert's home murals and acted as
a catalyst in having the young man enroll at the prestigious
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The parents, who had early
recognized their son's literary and artistic talents, gave the
twenty-one-year-old all their support. It was the beginning of an
At the Academy, Henri came under the able influence of Thomas Anshutz
who had been schooled in turn by the formidable Thomas Eakins.
Both men championed the future of an American art independent of
European domination. Both men encouraged their students to paint
the everyday world around them. After two years of thorough
training in drawing and painting there, Henri moved onto more training
in Paris. He enrolled first at the popular Académie Julian and
then at the École des Beaux-Arts. This stint abroad was to be the first
of many in Europe where he traveled widely; eagerly absorbing all that
he could in and out of the world of art. In 1896, official recognition
of the merit of his work came with the acceptance of his Suzanne by the
Salon in Paris.
After 1900, Henri worked for the most part in
New York and steadily built an equal reputation for himself as artist
and as teacher. His canvases—particularly his portraits of
performers and peasants—were hailed for their warmth and vigor.
His classes at the New York School of Art and other training centers
attracted a wide following. Firsthand evidence that he was a highly
articulate instructor is lodged in the pages of his book, The Art Spirit,
first published in 1923. Then, too, he was a mentor who was
generous in his encouragement. More than anything he wanted all those
with real talent to be given a chance to exhibit.
He fumed openly when the National Academy of Design rejected paintings
because they did not reflect prevailing expectations. It was in
protest against such rejection that Henri helped to organize the famous
show of The Eight, held in 1908 at the Macbeth Gallery in New
York. The eight artists, later known as members of the Ashcan
School because of the bawdy realism of some, were friends or pupils of
Henri: Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks,
Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, John Sloan and Henri himself.
As artists, they were quite disparate in temperament, style and
technique. They were one, however, in protesting outdated conventions
and in giving free rein to a kind of joyful, earthy Americanism in
their art which Henri had tirelessly promoted. The momentous
victory of that now landmark show gave the celebrated teacher one of
his finest hours.
Gusto, undiminished spontaneity, openness,
eagerness, a joy of life and a belief in oneself were the fundamentals
of his working motto as were experiment and daring, and the assertion
that one can do anything if one dares and if one pours continual energy
into the search for genuine self-expression.
In front of his easel Henri was at his most genuine, depicting the
streets that he walked, the people whom he met, and momentary
impressions gained when he seemed to see beyond the usual" in a passing
face or a passing scene. The warm-blooded realism of his style
was in harmony with his outlook on life. He liked the aspect of
the ordinary things and personalities around him and liked to bring
them to his canvas and paper with as much vitality and directness as
possible. He used strong sweeps of boldly applied pigment to do
this, minimizing the number of brushstrokes to get at the essentials of
an image. When drawing, a similar approach was executed with
quick charcoal strokes and few but intentional ink marks done with a
pen. Often an affiliation with Impressionism has been detected in
his work but Henri responded to more than one influence. The
hallmark of his representational style is a sense of immediate and
spontaneous execution with no pretentious flourishes and no studio
|Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:|
|Born Robert Henri Cozad in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1865, Robert was to become one of the most influential teachers and artists in the history of American art. He grew up in the town of Cozad, Nebraska which his father John Cozad founded, but left with his family in 1882 after his father shot and killed a man in a land dispute. Cozad was later exonerated, but by then the family members had moved to Denver, Colorado and changed their names to avoid detection. Robert changed his last name to Henri (pronounced hen-rye to rhyme with buckeye to remind him of his Ohio birthplace).|
The family moved in 1883 to New York City and then to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Robert discovered his love of painting and in 1886 enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. His instructors there were Thomas Anshutz, James B. Kelly and Thomas Hovenden. In 1888 he left for the Academie Julian in Paris to study with William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury before attending the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts. Upon his return to the US in 1891 he resumed his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy under Robert Vonnoh. By 1892 Henri had begun to teach art at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. About the same time he gathered some of his followers to sketch and discuss the philosophy of writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Emile Zola and Henry David Thoreau. At this "Charcoal Club" is where Henri met John Sloan who was at that time an illustrator for the Philadelphia Press. Three other painters who made up the "Philadelphia Four" group of painters with Sloan were William Glackens, George Luks and Everett Shinn.
By 1895 Robert was already questioning not only the traditional training he had gotten but also the impressionist style, which he now called the "new academicism." He was introduced to the practice of painting on pochades, tiny wood panels that could be easily carried anywhere to capture spontaneous scenes on the street. This was an important introduction to the emotional realism he became known for. He was impressed by the realist style of Dutch painter Franz Hals, and taught his students to really observe and quickly capture their own interpretation of the essence of their subject matter.
While on a trip to Paris in 1898, the French government purchased his painting La Neige (The Snow) for the Musee du Luxembourg. Upon his return in 1902 Henri taught at the Chase School of Art and the New York School of Art, where his students included George Bellows, Maurice Becker, Stuart Davis, Rockwell Kent and Edward Hopper. It was during this same period of time that he primarily left landscape painting to take up portrait work. He continued to travel for the rest of his life, but the work was portraiture of interesting people he met on his journeys.
He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1906 but left after his fellow jurors rejected the work of his fellow artists for the 1907 exhibition. He referred to the Academy as a "cemetery of art" and set about forming a group show of his own. His show at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908 was called "The Eight" because of the eight artists showing their work. Added to the "Philadelphia Four" and Henri were Maurice Prendergast, Ernest Lawson and Arthur B. Davies. This group would later be associated with the Ashcan School, though the term was not used until 1934. This name represented a change from subject matter reflecting "public taste" to painting the everyday street scenes - whether or not they were considered something of beauty. This kind of artwork became known as Social Realism.
Some of his most important work was created between 1913-1916, including his portrait of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of Art. Henri's wife Marjorie and her sister were often his models. He had five paintings in the 1913 Armory Show. Henri's many travels to California and New Mexico produced numerous paintings of Native American and Oriental people. In later years many of his portraits were of children. He would say he was after the "freshness and wonder of their spirit". In New Mexico alone he painted over 245 oil paintings as well as sketches in pastel, pencil and watercolor. In 1918 he was invited to become an honorary member of the Taos Society of Artists. He taught at the Art Students League from 1925 to 1928. His book called The Art Spirit was published in 1923 and had a profound impact on students throughout America and Europe. Henri was chosen as one of the top three living American artists by the Arts Council of New York in the spring of 1929. That summer he died of cancer in Manhattan.
He was awarded the silver medal in 1904 at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis; the Harris Medal at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905; Art Club, Philadelphia in 1909; Beck Gold Medal, PAFA in 1914; Pan-Pacific Exposition Silver Medal in 1915 and Wilmington Society of Fine Arts Silver Medal in 1920. His work is included in collections in the LA County Museum, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Memphis Museum, San Diego Museum and many others. He was honored at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a memorial exhibition in 1931.
The Art Spirit by Robert Henri
Hunter Museum of American Art
The Portraits of Robert Henri by Valerie Ann Leads
Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York
Robert Henri & His Circle by J. Nicoll
|Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:|
|Robert Henri (American, 1865-1929):|
Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad on June 24, 1865, in Cincinnati, OH the son of John Jackson Cozad and Theresa Gatewood.
He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia with Thomas Anshutz, James B. Kelly, Thomas Hovenden (1886-1888) and with Robert Vonnah (1891); Academie Julian, Paris, with William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury (1888-1891); Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris; Spain and Italy.
Member of the Society of American Artists (1903); Associate (1904) and Academician (1906), National Academy; National Institute of Arts & Letters; Portrait Painters; National Arts Club; Los Angeles Modern Art Society; Boston Art Club; New Society of Artists; The Eight (1908); American Painters & Sculptors, Paris; Society of Independent Artists (1916); Taos Society of Artists.
Awards include Universal Exposition, St. Louis (silver, 1904); Harris medal, Art Institute of Chicago (1905); Art Club, Philadelphia (1909); Beck Gold Medal, PAFA (1914); Pan-Pacific Exposition (silver, 1915); Wilmington Society of Fine Arts (silver, 1920).
One-man exhibitions include PAFA (1897); Macbeth Galleries, NYC (1902, 1924); Pratt Institute (1902); PAFA (1908); Art Institute of Chicago (1908); John Herron Art Institute, IND (1915); Cincinnati Museum Association (1915); Syracuse Museum (1916); Buffalo F.A. Academy (1919); Detroit Museum of Art (1919)International F.A. Exposition (1910); Metropolitan Museum of Art (1931, memorial); Robert Vose Galleries, Boston (1940); Chapellier Galleries, NYC (1976) and more.
Teaching: Opens Henri Art School, NYC (1909); Modern School (1911-1918), Art Students League (1915-1928), Valtin School, NY; Ferrar School, NY; Chase School, NY. Represented in Musee national du Luxembourg, Paris; Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Institute; New Orleans AA; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of F.A., Boston; PAFA; Brooklyn Museum; Newark Museum; L.A. County Museum; Memphis Museum; Buffalo Fine Arts Academy; Canajoharie Art Gallery; San Diego Museum and more. Married Linda Craige of Philadelphia, June 2, 1898-1905 and Marjorie Organ of NY, May 5, 1908-1928.
He died in New York City of cancer on July 12, 1929.
He was called “revolutionary,” an “insurgent” from birth, an “emancipator,” an “inspired teacher” and “typically American,” and Robert Henri’s personality, beliefs and actions fit all those descriptions. More than any one characteristic, Henri was true to himself and had the integrity and candor to be an apostle of artistic individuality and freedom of expression. Devoting his life to painting realism in an unrestrained manner, he remained a dynamic, thoughtful teacher. He helped organize “The Eight” and his protagonistic, candid articles and books promoting the unencumbered, limitless artistic spirit inspired new generations of painters, thinkers and educators.
|Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries:|
Henri was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, later settling with his family in
Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1885 he enrolled in The Pennsylvania
Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of Thomas Anschutz, who
contributed substantially to the development of Henri's
art--particularly in regard to his focus on social realism and urban
life. His personal credo was to portray human beings as they really
were--to capture character in all types, all classes, all conditions.|
1888 Henri made his first trip to Europe and enrolled at the Academie
Julian in Paris. After three years in Europe travelling, painting, and
sketching, Henri returned to Philadelphia. He soon joined the faculty
of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women where his gift for
teaching was revealed. Henri had an abiding need to relate art to life
and became a prominent agitator for reforms in American art, calling
New York's National Academy of Design "a cemetery of art."
Sloan and Henri met in 1892. It was through Sloan that Henri became
acquainted with William Glackens, Everett Shinn, and George Luks (at
that time all illustrators for "Philadelphia Press".)
to Europe in 1895 with Glackens and William D. Redfield, Henri
"discovered" Frans Hals and studied his works extensively. He operated
an art school in Paris and had his paintings accepted in the Salon. In
1899 Henri moved to New York to paint and soon to teach at the New York
School of Art. During this period "The Eight", also known as the Ashcan
School, was formed. Although diverse in their painting styles, the
artists were dedicated to common ideals; the validity of everyday life
as subject matter for fine art, and above all, an artist's freedom of
expression. Their famous exhibition of 1908 opened the eyes of the
American public to painting of real people and real places.
teacher of art, Henri had few equals. He had a strong character and was
a powerful influence on the artistic approach of many artists. He
believed artistic expression was vital--that technique is important but
should never be an end in itself.
|Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, III:|
Born: Cincinnati, Ohio 1865
Died: New York City 1929
Very important international teacher of the “Ashcan School,” painter
The standard biography, places Henri native to Ohio, the son of
John Henri, educated in Cincinnati, Denver, and New York schools.
He was the pupil of Eakins and Hovenden at the Philadelphia Academy of
Fine Arts 1886-88. From 1888 to 1891 he was the pupil of
Bouguereau and Robert-Fleury at the Julien Academy in Paris. He
also sought independent development through travel in Europe. In
1891, he returned to Philadelphia as instructor at the Women’s School
of Design, becoming the center of the realist group including Sloan,
Glackens, Luks, and Shinn.
From 1896 to 1900, he was back in Paris, teaching a class and selling a
painting to the French museum. He then established his studio in
New York City, teaching at the Valtin school, the Chase school, the
Henri school, the Ferrar school, and the Art Students League. As
a teacher, he emphasized visual honesty, the quality of being true to
one’s self. As a painter in 1929, he was regarded as one of the
three most important living American artists, with portraits “under
three headings, graceful young women, frolicking children, and foreign
types.” His life-span was from the end of the Civil War to the
end of Hoover’s prosperity.
None of the standard reference mentions the Western experience.
Henri visited San Diego in 1914, painting Indian portraits. He
spent the summer of 1916 in Santa Fe, painting a total of about 30
portraits then, in 1917, and in 1922: “I was not interest in
these people to mourn that we have destroyed the Indian. I am
only seeking to capture what I have discovered in a few of the
people.” Henri’s value to the West was mainly in his prestige
that caused his friends and students to follow him to New Mexico.
The “Ashcan School” was urban, not Indian, and pueblo poverty was not
personal to the painters.
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing
|Biography from Owen Gallery:|
|Robert Henri was born in 1865 as Robert Henry Cozad. He changed his name to Henri after his father was indicted for murder in 1882.|
Henri's first studies were at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1886 under the tutelage of Thomas Anshutz, Thomas Hovenden, and James B. Kelly. In 1888, he set sail for Europe for study at the Academy Julian. Then, in 1891, he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts. However, by the fall, Henri returned to Philadelphia and began teaching classes. This was the beginning of an important aspect of Henri's career, as he is equally revered for both his skill at painting and teaching.
Henri settled in New York by 1901, and his career continued to accelerate. Henri traveled frequently throughout his life (to New Mexico, California, Spain, France, and Ireland) but always maintained a permanent residence in New York.
He died of cancer at St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan in 1929.
|Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:|
|Much has been written about the artist Robert Henri. Respected
for his theory and criticism, the followers of his technique and
instruction made him a legend in his own time. Some even regard
him as the artist who single-handedly led the way to a break with
nineteenth century European tradition resulting in a revolutionary
Robert Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad in
Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1865. His father, John Jackson Cozad, an
entrepreneur, moved the family to Nebraska in 1872 where he created his
own town of Cozad. Henri returned to Cincinnati for school but
spent his summers from 1872 to 1882 on the open plains of
Nebraska. In 1882, John Cozad became embroiled in a murder charge
of a cattle herder, for which he was eventually exonerated.(1)
Consequently, the Cozad family moved to several cities before settling
in Atlantic City.
During a previous move to New York, the
family members had changed names, so the artist became “Robert Henri,”
utilizing the French form of his original middle name. In 1886,
Henri entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he came
under the influence of Thomas Anshutz and Thomas Hovenden. These
years also included his initial ventures to Europe; trips that provided
him with his first glimpses of the coast of Ireland, a landscape with
which he immediately fell in love and would return to utilize in the
future. His travels in Europe included studies with William
Adolphe Bouguereau at the Académie Julian before joining the exclusive
ranks of students at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he enrolled in the
ateliers of the painters, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Léon Bonnat and of the
sculptor Augustin-Alexandre Dumont. In France, he became familiar
with painters such as Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Claude Monet,
allying himself with the Impressionist movement’s break with academic
Henri returned to the United States only to rebel against the
teachings of Robert Vonnoh at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine
Arts. He began his first teaching job at the Philadelphia School
of Design for Women along with his informal gatherings of the Charcoal
Club whose weekly meetings of artists included Everett Shinn and George
Luks. As a teacher and one whose voice of criticism was sought
after by other artists, Henri promoted “Paint what is real to you.”
Henri’s rebellion against academic establishment continued
and gained momentum. In an apparent contradiction, he was elected
a member of the National Academy of Design in 1906, yet he served as a
major player in exhibitions that challenged the Academy’s hold on
American artists and sales. In 1907, the Academy’s rejection of
paintings by Luks and his contemporaries led Henri to remove his work
from the annual exhibition and to organize his own display at Macbeth’s
Gallery in 1908. The exhibition of “The Eight” as they would
became better known, was a success and the artists whose work reflected
their time and place in America received much due recognition.
Henri was then instrumental in organizing the Exhibition of Independent
Artists in 1910, which had a direct impact on the success of the
infamous Armory Show in 1913.
Henri continued teaching and eventually formed his own school
in 1909. Henri was a powerful instructor whose students listened
and adhered to his ideas, taking the time to experience their own lives
and paint what they saw around them. Henri’s portraits reflect
his appropriation of the examples of Hals, Velázquez, and Rembrandt
into his own personal vision. For example, he frequently employed
a plain background and limited palette of colors. Throughout his
career, Henri employed several different color theories. Whether
choosing a three-color palette base or pairs of complementary colors,
he found color of significant importance within each composition.
Henri removed himself from the chaos of New York every
summer, taking trips to find various sources of inspiration and subject
matter for his work. His summer restlessness ended when he
discovered Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Achill Island, located off the
coast of Ireland. On Achill Island, Henri found subjects that fit
his search for “my people,” those who had not been spoiled by
civilization. Henri stated, “Folk who live in remote places, and
especially those who live on islands, are thrown on their own
responsibility for amusement, and in the general life, each one has to
develop the power to entertain others and himself, and so they become
exceptional people. There is a lot of detail of life in great
communities which they do not know, but they become possessed, through
the force of necessity, of facts of life which it would be desirable
for any city man to know.” Just such people whose simple lives
centered on fishing and farming inhabited Achill Island. After
many trips to Ireland, Henri purchased a home there in 1924 and spent
every remaining summer on Achill Island.
Henri’s respect for the simple, unassuming people is apparent in his
written and spoken word, but mostly in his portraits of them.
devoted the last few years of his life to depicting a young children.
The artist stated, “Children are greater than the grown man. …I have
never respected any man more than I have some children. In the faces of
children I have seen a look of wisdom and of kindness expressed with
such ease and such certainty that I knew it was the expression of a
1. One of many sources for biographical information is William Innes Homer, Robert Henri and His Circle (New York: Hacker Art Books, 1988).
2. Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (New York: Harper & Row, 1923), 22-26.
Submitted by the staff of the Columbus Museum, Georgia.
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