Robert Henri

Robert Henri was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, later settling with his family in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1885 he enrolled in The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of Thomas Anschutz, who contributed substantially to the development of Henri's art--particularly in regard to his focus on social realism and urban life. His personal credo was to portray human beings as they really were--to capture character in all types, all classes, all conditions. In 1888 Henri made his first trip to Europe and enrolled at the Academie Julian in Paris. After three years in Europe travelling, painting, and sketching, Henri returned to Philadelphia. He soon joined the faculty of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women where his gift for teaching was revealed. Henri had an abiding need to relate art to life and became a prominent agitator for reforms in American art, calling New York's National Academy of Design "a cemetery of art." 

John Sloan and Henri met in 1892. It was through Sloan that Henri became acquainted with William Glackens, Everett Shinn, and George Luks (at that time all illustrators for "Philadelphia Press".) Returning to Europe in 1895 with Glackens and William D. Redfield, Henri "discovered" Frans Hals and studied his works extensively. He operated an art school in Paris and had his paintings accepted in the Salon. In 1899 Henri moved to New York to paint and soon to teach at the New York School of Art. During this period "The Eight", also known as the Ashcan School, was formed. Although diverse in their painting styles, the artists were dedicated to common ideals; the validity of everyday life as subject matter for fine art, and above all, an artist's freedom of expression. Their famous exhibition of 1908 opened the eyes of the American public to paintings of real people and real places. As a teacher of art, Henri had few equals. He had a strong character and was a powerful influence on the artistic approach of many artists.