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Robert Henri and His Influence: From the Permanent Collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery
On August 11, 2002, the exhibition Robert Henri and His Influence: From the Permanent Collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery opened at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. The exhibition includes 40 artworks, featuring oil paintings and works on paper from the Sheldon Gallery at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Robert Henri's The Brown Wrap (1911) is one of the gems of the LRMA collection, and the Museum is delighted to present more works by this important artist and his contemporaries. Other artists in the exhibition are William Merritt Chase, Ernest Lawson, George Bellows, and John Sloan. Bellows, Sloan and Lawson are represented in the LRMA collection as well. (left: Maurice Prendergast, Neponset Bay, c. 1914, oil on canvas)
The American artist Robert Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati. He changed his name in 1883 after his father, a gambler, killed a man. Despite such humble beginnings, Henri became one of the most influential painters and art teachers of his generation. He was the leader of a group of early 20 th century painters known as The Eight, who were primarily an exhibition group, rather than a group of artists who shared a similar style or technique. Henri and his realist contemporaries were known as The Ashcan School because they painted dark pictures of ordinary people, street corners and urban rooftops, instead of beautiful or historic subject matter.
Henri studied at the Pennsylvania Academy for the Fine Arts and then in Europe, as did many American artists of the day. When he returned he stopped painting in the bright colors and light subject matter of American Impressionism, and adopted a darker palette, or range of colors. He was inspired mostly by the Dutch Baroque painter Frans Hals, the French Realist Edouart Manet, and the great American Realist Thomas Eakins, all of whom were well known for their rich use of brushwork and paint, and Realist subject matter. In other words, they painted ordinary folks, things one could see and hear and experience, but not religious subjects or events from literature and history. Henri and his colleagues felt that painting should reflect the world around them, not the untouchable world of literature and history. (left: John Sloan, Nursemaids, Madison Square, 1907, oil on canvas)
As a teacher and a writer, Henri was extraordinarily influential. His book The Art Spirit, remains in print today and is still widely read by art students. He taught for many years at the Art Students' League in New York City, inspiring students to seek the modern in their work and to ignore useless rules and restrictions. The exhibition at LRMA highlights the work of Henri, his students, and others inspired by his art, his teaching, and his writing.
The exhibition was organized by Daniel A. Siedell, PhD, the curator of the Sheldon, which is a part of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Tour Development by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Missouri
Robert Henri and His Influence: From the Permanent Collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery will be open through September 29, 2002.
Following is an article written by Jill Chancey, LRMA Curator, for Robert Henri and His Influence: From the Permanent Collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery
Robert Henri and His Influence is an exhibition of 40 artworks, featuring oil paintings and works on paper drawn exclusively from the permanent collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Lincoln, Nebraska. The exhibit presents Henri's work in the context of the many important artists he influenced in the first decades of the twentieth-century. Many of these artists were associated with both The Eight and later with the so-called Ashcan School, both of which were shaped and sustained by the energies of Henri.
The Eight, which exhibited during the first decade of the twentieth century, included artists William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, and Robert Henri. Functioning essentially as an exhibiting group or community and not because of a similar style or aesthetic art form, these artists represented a tremendous aesthetic diversity that came to characterize the history of modern art in the United States. The term Ashcan School, which first appeared in a 1934 book by Alfred Barr and Holger Cahill, describes some of The Eight who were interested in the banal and mundane subject matter and usually painted them in a dark palette derived from the Munich School. Indeed, the interrelationship of The Eight and the Ashcan School are due to Henri's strong involvement with both groups. With thirty paintings and works on paper and a collection of archival materials, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery collection is the most comprehensive public assembly of Henri's oeuvre.
As an artist, art teacher, and advocate for modern art, Robert Henri influenced, and continues to influence, generations of artists with not only his artworks but also through his book, The Art Spirit, published in 1923, which remains in print and is still in high demand today. Henri''s philosophy of art was an important catalyst in the history and development of international modern art in the United States. His philosophy was derived from romantic humanism, modernism, and American pragmatism, a blend that made European modern art less threatening to an art audience skeptical of abstraction and avant-gardism.
Henri's interest in developing the artist's individual expressive freedom enabled artists to enter the international art world in an unprecedented manner. In fact several members of The Eight were instrumental in organizing and promoting the famous Armory Show of 1913, Americas first dose of European modernism, which represented a major watershed in American art and culture. This exhibition, of which Henri took part, had an inescapable effect, both directly and indirectly, on him, challenging his artistic beliefs and personal leadership. Representing the full spectrum of artistic styles that manifest the scope of Henri's influence, George Bellows, William Merritt Chase, Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Walt Kuhn, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan are all associated with this initial American foray into modernism in the twentieth century.
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