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Robert Henri and His Influence, from the Permanent Collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden


The Westmoreland Museum of American Art (WMAA) will present the exhibition Robert Henri and His Influence from May 25 through July 21, 2002. The exhibition of forty-one works of art featuring oil paintings and works on paper is drawn primarily from the permanent collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Lincoln, Nebraska. Robert Henri and His Influence presents Henri's work in the context of the many important artists he influenced and interacted with in the first decades of the twentieth-century. Many of these artists were associated with both The Eight and later with the so-called Ashcan School, both of which were shaped and sustained by the energies of Henri. The Eight, whose famous 1908 exhibition at the MacBeth Gallery in New York inaugurated the name, exhibited during the first decade of the twentieth century and included artists William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, and Robert Henri.

Also on exhibition, in conjunction with Robert Henri and His Influence, is a selection of works on paper drawn from WMAA's permanent collection entitled The Ashcan School. The artists in this exhibition were associated with The Eight or the famed Ashcan School and include George Bellows, Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan.



Functioning essentially as an exhibiting group or community and not because of a similar style or aesthetic art form, these artists represented a tremendous aesthetic diversity that came to characterize the history of modern art in the United States. The term Ashcan School, which first appeared in a 1934 book by Alfred Barr and Holger Cahill, describes some of The Eight who were interested in the banal and mundane subject matter and usually painted in a dark palette derived from the Munich School. Indeed, the interrelationship of The Eight and the Ashcan School are due to Henri's strong involvement with both groups.  With thirty paintings and works on paper and a collection of archival materials, the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery collection is the most comprehensive public assembly of Henri's body of work. (left: Robert Henri (1865-1929), Portrait of Ira Glackens, 1911)

As an artist, art teacher, and advocate for modern art, Robert Henri influenced, and continues to influence, generations of artists with not only his artwork but also through his book, The Art Spirit, published in 1923, which remains in print and is still in high demand today.  Henri's philosophy of art was an important catalyst in the history and development of international modern art in the United States.  His philosophy was derived from romantic humanism, modernism, and American pragmatism, a blend that made European modern art less threatening to an art audience skeptical of abstraction and the avant-garde. (right: Robert Henri (1865-1929), The Pink Pinafore, 1926)

Henri's interest in developing the artist's individual expressive freedom enabled artists to enter the international art world in an unprecedented manner.  In fact several members of The Eight were instrumental in organizing and promoting the famous Armory Show of 1913, Americas first dose of European modernism, which represented a major watershed in American art and culture. This exhibition, of which Henri took part, had an inescapable effect, both directly and indirectly, on him, challenging his artistic beliefs and personal leadership.  Representing the full spectrum of artistic styles that manifest the scope of Henri's influence, George Bellows, Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Walt Kuhn, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan are all associated with this initial American foray into modernism in the twentieth century.

The exhibition at the WMAA is part of a ten city national tour over a two-year period, developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibition is funded in part by the Howard Heinz Endowment.

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