Robert Henri (pronounced Hen-rye) was an American portraitist and figure painter, however, he was better known for his influential teachings and introducing Impressionism to America. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio to a father who was a professional gambler and businessman, Robert Henri had an exciting start to his life. At the age of 10, he had to change his identity due to an altercation that his father became involved in which resulted in the death of a local rancher. To escape persecution, the Cozad family changed their names and moved to Denver, Colorado and then Atlantic City, New Jersey. A few short years later, in 1886, Henri began his formal education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA. After two years, he traveled to France and spent the next three years attending the Académie Julian (1888) and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (1891) in Paris.
In 1891, Robert Henri returned to the Academy in Philadelphia to finish his studies. There he began a long and rewarding career as an art instructor at the School of Design for Women. He taught there for the next four years and married Linda Craige in 1898. In 1900, he moved to New York and began teaching at the New York School of Art from 1902 thru 1908. It is around this time that Henri began to reject the mainstream Impressionism style and started to paint in a bolder, realistic style. He and fellow artists began the movement of the Ashcan School of American realism which bucked the traditional methods of Impressionism and found more value in painting the realistic landscapes of urban New York City, with emphasis on the impoverished areas. Henri wanted his work to be a visual journal, showing the reality of living. A few painters of that time embraced the idea, thus starting the Aschcan School of American art.
He also was one of “the Eight,” artists who rejected the strict exhibition policies and narrow taste of the National Academy of Design, thus prompting a movement toward greater freedom in painting and implementing a new threshold of artistic expectations for generations to come. At his untimely death in 1929 at 62, Robert Henri was best known for his progressive teachings and for being one of the leading artists in the movement away from Impressionism.
"Art is an outsider, a gypsy over the face of the earth." - Robert Henri