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Robert (Henry Cozad) Henri

 (1865 - 1929)
Robert (Henry Cozad) Henri was active/lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio.  Robert Henri is known for portrait and social realist genre painting, teaching.

Robert (Henry Cozad) Henri

    HEN-rye  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Robert (Henry Cozad) Henri
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.

He, 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 Taylor | Graham
"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 educators.

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.

Born 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 extraordinary career.

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 mannerism.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery
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
Robert 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.

In 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."

John 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".)

Returning 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.

As a 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
Robert Henri
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 American art.

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 tradition.

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.

Henri 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 whole race."(2)

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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About  Robert (Henry Cozad) Henri

Born:  1865 - Cincinnati, Ohio
Died:   1929 - New York City
Known for:  portrait and social realist genre painting, teaching