Robert Henri

Armand Cabrera

Robert Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati Ohio in 1865. His father

was a real estate developer and gambler. His father shot and killed a man over a land dispute and the family, to avoid the controversy,moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey and changed their names. In 1886 Henri enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy studying under Thomas Hovenden and Thomas Anshutz. In 1888 he travelled to Europe to Study in Paris at the Academie Julian under Adolphe-William Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. He also painted outdoors in Concarneau during his summers and in 1891 enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts for a year.

In 1892 Henri returned to the United States and continued his study at the Pennsylvania Academy under Robert Vonnoh. At the same time he began teaching at the School of Design for Women. He kept this position until 1985.

In 1900 Henri moved to New York City and was hired by William Merritt Chase to teach at the New York School of Art which had been founded by Chase. Within a year Chase and Henri were at odds about the curriculum, with Henri de-emphasizing the importance of draftsmanship and technique for a freer style. The disagreements escalated until Chase ended up leaving the school in 1907.
After being elected to the National Academy of Design in 1906, Henri became embittered with the refusal of one of his pieces for the 1907 show. In response he organized the first show of The Eight in February 1908. The Eight were Robert Henri, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, George Luks, John Sloan, Arthur Davies Maurice Prendergast and Ernest Lawson. Their work focused on urban settings and the seedier side of life in the city. The movement toward this gritty realism became known as the Ashcan school. Henri, helped organized many important shows and art societies during the beginning of the twentieth century mostly in response to what he felt was a confining and overly expensive jury system for the older more established art groups and shows.

In 1915 Henri began to teach at the Art Students League in New York and here he would influence many generations of painters with his passionate ideas about art. His teachings were collected by Margery Ryerson in book form and published as the Art Spirit in 1923. It has stayed in print since that time, extending Henri’s teaching to this day, as new generations read and pass on his ideals. Henri left the Art League in 1927 and died in 1929 at the age of 64.


Robert Henri His Life and Art
Bennard B. Perlman
Horizon Press 1884/ Dover Publications 1991

American Impressionism
William Gerdts
Abbeville Press 1984

The Art Spirit
Robet Henri
Icon Editions 1984
Brush strokes carry a message whether you will it or not. The stroke is just like the artist at the time he makes it. All the certainties, all the uncertainties, all the bigness of his spirit and all the littleness are in it. —– Robert Henri

4 thoughts on “Robert Henri

  1. Hi Armand,
    No artist book shelf should be without Henri's art spirit. It's the gold standard as far as I am concerned. Wish I could take that workshop with Paquet, that sounds like a blast. Have fun, I'm sure you will.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  2. I don't know Robert Henri but I do know the Academie Julian Paris and Adolphe-William Bouguereau very well indeed.

    His story seems to replicate that of the Australian young men and women who flocked to Academie Julian from 1888 onwards. When they returned to Australia, like Henri, they became leading artists, teachers and gallery big wigs themselves.

    His female sitters are gorgeous. He is not a million miles from John Singer Sargent and James Whistler, and he may even have a touch of the Mary Cassatt.

    Many thanks for gorgeous images
    Art and Architecture, mainly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.