Edna Smith (1915) by Robert Henri
Robert Henri (1865-1929) was one of America's best painters of the nude at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. A skilled portraitist, many of his nudes are really more portraits than figure studies. In his nudes he often concentrated on upper torso pictures as he had a particular facility for rendering woman's breasts. They really are some of the finest busts in the entirety of art!
The Young Girl
The picture of Edna Smith at the top of this post is now in the Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis. The elfin-faced Smith was a professional model who Henri painted several times. He captures her luminous white skin perfectly whilst still managing to impart enough shading to give her form.
Born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati, Ohio, his father was a property developer who moved across the West founding towns which, with great modesty, he named after himself. During an argument with a rancher in the town of Cozad, Nebraska his father shot and killed the man. Although cleared of a crime the family moved to Denver where they changed their names so Robert Cozad became Robert Henri in 1882. Henri was a distant cousin of impressionist painter Mary Cassat.
Robert Henri in 1897
By 1886 Henri had enrolled at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, which Triple P visited last year. Two years later he moved to Paris and studied under Bougereau at the Académie Julian and then was admitted to the École des Beaux Arts. He returned to Philadelphia at the end of 1891. In Philadalelphia a group of like minded artists formed around him and they would meet for life drawing sessions and philosophical discussions.
Edna Smith in a Japanese Wrap (1915)
In 1898 he married one of his students, Linda Craigie, although she died only seven years later. For the next few years he divided his time between Philadelphia and Paris. In 1902 he began teaching at the New York School of Art where one of his pupils was Edward Hopper. He was elected to the National Academy for Arts and Design in 1906 but when some of his friend's pictures were rejected for its 1907 exhibition he resigned and set up his own exhibition. At the age of 43 he married again to a 22 year old Irish girl, Marjorie Organ.
The Beach Hat
In 1929, the year of his death, he was chosen as one of the top three living American artists.
We will look at some of Henri's other nudes another time.