Robert Henri (1865 – 1929) a charismatic teacher and leading figure of the Ashcan School, rebelled against the pretty landscapes being turned out by the American Impressionists by painting dark, gritty scenes of everyday life in the poorer neighborhoods of New York. Henri taught at the New York School of Art (1902-1909),the Henri School of Art (1909-1912), the Modern School of the FerrerSociety (1911-1916), and the Art Students League (1912-1928). Some of his notable students included Stuart Davis, Rockwell Kent, Man Ray, Andrew Dasburg,George Bellows, and Edward Hopper. In 1923, student Margery Ryerson compiled The Art Spirit, a book of Henri’s teachings which may have been one of my undergrad favorites, but read today strikes me as hopelessly reactionary [see clarification in Comments below]. Here’s an underlined passage from my dog-eared paperback edition:
“There is an idea in America that people can be told how to appreciate pictures. Whereas the appreciation of art is a very personal and special response to creative work. And it must be a part of the province of the artist so to present his work to help create this response.”
Perhaps Henri was anticipating future conceptual work that requires a lengthy explanation and theoretical grounding?
Anyway, let’s all stay home today and reread an old favorite.
From the MoMA/MoMA PS 1 blog: “Snow,” a Poem in Five Pictures
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