Robert Henri

American painter (1865-1929)

Robert Henri (June 24, 1865 – July 12, 1929) was an American painter and teacher. He was a leading figure of the Ashcan School of American realism and an organizer of the group known as "The Eight," a loose association of artists who protested the restrictive exhibition practices of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design.

Robert Henri


  • "It is harder to see than it is to express. The whole value of art rests in the artist's ability to see well into what is before him."[citation needed]
  • "Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable, and we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life's experience."[1]
  • "Paint what you feel. Paint what you see. Paint what is real to you."[2]
  • "Different men are moved or left cold by lines according to the difference in their natures. What moves you is beautiful to you."[citation needed]
  • "There is only one reason for art in America, and that is that the people of America learn the means of expressing themselves in their own time, and their own land."[citation needed]
  • Robert Henri's open letter to the Art Students League:

Thomas Eakins was a man of great character. He was a man of iron will and his will to paint and to carry out his life as he thought it should go. This he did. It cost him heavily but in his works we have the precious result of his independence, his generous heart and his big mind. Eakins was a deep student of life, and with a great love he studied humanity frankly. He was not afraid of what his study revealed to him.
In the matter of ways and means of expression, the science of technique, he studied most profoundly, as only a great master would have the will to study. His vision was not touched by fashion. He struggled to apprehend the constructive force in nature and to employ in his works the principles found. His quality was honesty. "Integrity" is the word which seems best to fit him. Personally I consider him the greatest portrait painter America has produced.[3]

Quotes about Robert Henri

  • The Masses marked, I have been told, the first appearance of "realism" in an American magazine. But I was ignorant of, and indifferent to, schools of art and literature. Of the new movement in art represented by John Sloan, George Bellows, and the other pupils of Robert Henri, I had never heard.
    • Max Eastman "The Policy of The Masses: An Editor's Reflections"


  1. The Craftsman, 27 June 1910 .
  2. Henri, Robert (2007) [1923], p. 285.
  3. Henri, Robert (2007). The Art Spirit. New York: Basic Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-06-430138-9.