In 1891, Henri had met a group of young artist-illustrators who had been working for Edward Davis, the art director of the Philadelphia Press. They were William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan. Henri imparted to these young men a new cosmopolitan spirit, urging them to travel abroad and to devote themselves to oil painting rather than to illustration. In 1904, he set up a school of his own in New York City’s Lincoln Arcade, in the Latin Quarter district on upper Broadway. Gathered there were all the rebels against the genteel tradition: the Philadelphia artists who had followed Henri to New York, and others, such as George Bellows and Glenn O. Coleman, who were to associate themselves with the New Realism (Arnason 420).
Henri “redirected the [Philadelphia group’s] attention to subjects taken from contemporary city life--rooftops and backyards, Bohemian restaurants, ferryboats, and crowded streets” (Brown et al. 353). Following his example, the group members were innovative primarily in subject matter rather than in formal structure or style, changing in their attitude not toward painting but toward life. Compared to contemporary European artistic developments, their work was not revolutionary; however, the “vulgarity” of their subject matter was enough to provoke sharp criticism for a time, at least, until their offences paled beside the public outrage aroused by the introduction of avant-garde modernism at the Armory Show of 1913. Overnight, the Armory Show made realism seem conservative and dated. Still, The Eight were the first Americans in the century to revive an insurgent mood, to depict urban ugliness, and to venture into the modern mainstream by breaking the hold of the academic past.
The Realist group’s new departures in mood, subject matter, and social attitude, if not in style and technique, soon aroused the open hostility of the official art world. The challenge of Henri, Luks, Sloan, Glackens, and Shinn to contemporary authority met with increasing rejections of their work by the National Academy and the Society of American Artists. Suppression by these institutions, as well as by the small number of private art galleries then showing works in America denied the artists public exposure. When, in 1907, the jury for the National Academy voted to exclude entries by several members of his group; Henri withdrew from the exhibition in protest. With Glackens and Sloan, Henri formulated plans for a counter exhibition that would be the first large independent's show of the new century. (continue)
Armory Show Web Site