Robert Henri, 1908 by Zaida Ben-Yusuf. Delaware Art Museum
Robert Henri
Date: American painter, 1865–1929
School: Ashcan School
Biography: Robert Henri was a painter, teacher, and the inspiring leader of the Eight. He was born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati and moved to Cozad, Nebraska, a town founded by his father, as a boy. After his father shot a rancher in a dispute, Henri's family relocated and changed their names, moving to the East Coast in 1883. Henri enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied with Thomas P. Anshutz. He traveled to Europe and studied at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris between 1888 and 1891. In 1892 he returned to Philadelphia and began teaching at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. He befriended John Sloan, Everett Shinn, William Glackens, and George Luks. He inspired this group of young artist-illustrators--who would become the core of the Eight--to pursue painting more seriously. Around the turn of the century, he settled in New York where he taught at the New York School of Art. An inspiring instructor, Henri taught many American modern painters, including Edward Hopper, George Bellows, Stuart Davis, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. By 1904, Henri was turning away from his early interest in painting city scenes to focus on portraiture, the genre for which he is most famous. Henri was an advocate for modern art, organizing independent exhibitions in galleries as early as 1901. With his friends from Philadelphia--and three other painters--he organized the watershed exhibition of the Eight at Macbeth Gallery in 1908. Two years later, he was the driving force behind the Exhibition of Independent Artists. His book, The Art Spirit, first published in 1923, remains in print and has influenced generations of artists.