Robert Henri (1865-1929)
Self Portrait
1903, oil on canvas
32 by 26 in.

Robert Henri 

"Genius is not a possession of the limited few, but exists in some degree in everyone.  Where there is natural growth, a full and free play of faculties, genius will manifest itself."

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The following was copied from pgs 401-2 of H.H. Arnason and Marla F. Prather's book History of Modern Art, Painting Sculpture, Architecture,Photography

Robert Henri (1865-1929) was a dedicated teacher and artistic leader who instinctively rebelled against the clichés of the American academic tradition.  He had studied in the Pennsylvania Academy with Thomas Anshutz. a pupil of Eakins, and at the Academic Julian in Paris. where the spontaneous sketching techniques he had learned under Anshutz displeased his teachers.  In 1900, Henri settled in New York where he eventually joined the faculty at the New York School of Art, exhibited widely, and by 1905, was highly enough regarded to be elected a member of the National Academy of Design.

Although Henri painted many landscapes, he is primarily admired for the forthright expression and painterly freedom of his portraits, including Laughing Child, which was among the works he exhibited with The Eight.  Not surprisingly, he made the portrait during a visit with some of his students to Haarlem, the Netherlands, home of the seventeenth century painter Frans Hals.  Like the Dutch master, Henri favored immediacy of expression over academic finish in his portraits.  During the trip he painted several informal half-length portraits of children against dark backgrounds, skillfully capturing the fresh enthusiasm of his young subjects.

Following the exhibition of The Eight, Henri established his own independent art school, becoming one of the most influential teachers in the early years of the twentieth century.  His instruction left its mark on a number of artists including Stanton MacDonald Wright, Patrick Henry Bruce, and Stuart Davis who would become leading American abstractionists (although Henri himself cared little for abstract art), as well as leading realist painters George Bellows and Edward Hopper .

Arnason, H.H., Marla F. Prather. History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography. 4th. ed. New York: Abrams, 1998.

For further reading:

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit. Compiled by Margery Ryerson. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, Co.,

Homer, William Innes, with Violet Organ. Robert Henri and His Circle. Ithaca, N.Y., and
London: Cornell University Press, 1969.

Perlman, Bernard B. Robert Henri, Painter. Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1984.

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