Henri, Robert

orig. Robert Henry Cozad

born June 25, 1865, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
died July 12, 1929, New York, N.Y.

U.S. painter.

He studied in Philadelphia and Paris, taught art in Philadelphia, and, after settling in New York City in 1900, became the leader of the young realist artists known as The Eight. He exhibited with The Eight in 1908 and later at the Armory Show (1913). As a portrait painter he demonstrated facile brushwork, lively colours, and an ability to catch fleeting gestures and expressions. He is best remembered as a teacher, principally at New York's Art Students League (1915–28), where he became one of the most influential art teachers in the U.S. and a powerful force in turning young artists away from academicism and toward the rich subject matter of modern city life. His belief in the artist as a social force led to the formation of the Ash Can school.

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▪ American artist
born June 25, 1865, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
died July 12, 1929, New York, New York

      urban realist painter, a leader of The Eight (Eight, The) and the Ashcan School and one of the most influential teachers of art in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.

      Henri studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, from 1884 to 1888, and at both the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Upon returning to the United States in 1892, he became an instructor at the School of Design for Women in Philadelphia. His vigorous ideas attracted a group of young illustrators from the Philadelphia press: John Sloan (Sloan, John French), Everett Shinn, George Luks (Luks, George), and William J. Glackens (Glackens, William J.). From 1898 to 1900 he was again in Paris and exhibited at the Salon. He then settled in New York City, where he taught at the New York School of Art and organized numerous exhibitions that featured urban realist scenes. Although elected in 1906 to the National Academy of Design, Henri became enraged when, the following year, the works of his realist colleagues were rejected. In 1908 he joined forces with seven other artists (including Sloan, Shinn, Luks, and Glackens)—dubbed “The Eight (Eight, The)”—and mounted a single, joint exhibition before being absorbed into the larger Ashcan School. Henri also exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show.

      During an extremely active life as an artist, Henri exercised considerable influence as a portrait painter. A painting such as Himself (1913) reveals his facile brushwork, lively palette, and ability to catch fleeting gestures and expressions. He also wielded influence as a teacher. From 1915 to 1928 Henri taught at the Art Students League in New York. During this period he was instrumental in turning young American painters away from academic eclecticism toward an acceptance of the rich, real life of the modern city as the proper subject of art. Henri's book, The Art Spirit (1923), embodying his conception of art as an expression of love for life, continues to be popular among artists and art students.

Additional Reading
William Inness Homer and Violet Organ, Robert Henri and His Circle (1988, rev. ed.); Valerie Ann Leeds, My People: The Portraits of Robert Henri (1994).

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Universalium. 2010.

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