Musée No:656.014Regular price £25.00
Artist: Robert Henri
Robert Henri (1865 –1929) was an American painter and teacher. As a young man, he studied in Paris, where he identified strongly with the Impressionists, and determined to lead an even more dramatic revolt against American academic art, as reflected by the conservative National Academy of Design. Together with a small team of enthusiastic followers, he pioneered the Ashcan School of American realism, depicting urban life in an uncompromisingly brutalist style. By the time of the Armory Show, America's first large-scale introduction to European Modernism (1913), Henri was mindful that his own representational technique was being made to look dated by new movements such as Cubism, though he was still ready to champion avant-garde painters such as Henri Matisse and Max Weber.
The subject is Edna Smith, a professional model who posed for other paintings, at least two of them nudes. Since they did not require him to capture the personality of the model as he did in his portraits, figure studies were for Henri an opportunity to explore formal issues that interested him, especially the Maratta system of colour and the compositional ideas that interested him and his circle. The colour in this work is exceptionally vivid, the model’s red hair and fair colouring set off by a complementary blue-green background. The brushwork is vigorous and joyous, clearly showing his dashing execution. In a painting such as this, where it is given completely free play, one can see what a dexterous and masterly craftsman Henri had become.
Henri taught his students to "work quickly. Don’t stop for anything but the essential .... It’s the spirit of the thing that counts" (Henri diary, August 25, 1926, entry).