Friday, February 26, 2010

Thinking about Raphael Soyer of the previous post led me to read more about the painters working a decade or two before him, in particular Robert Henri and the members of the Ashcan School. Although he studied art in the Philadelphia as well as in Europe, it was while biking through France and Belgium in 1895 that he had a road to Damascus experience upon discovering the work of Franz Hals (The Eight, Monhonri Sharp Young, p. 20).

At right is Franz Hals' Portrait of a Man in His Thirties (looks older than that to me, but then, no heating, no generous Dutch vacations, and just wearing that collar would be exhausting. ..) Below is Henri's Jimmy O'D (1925).

Henri was a passionate believer in realism. He had turned his back on the impressionists, looking instead to the work of Velasquez, Hals, Eakins and Manet as models. He loved teaching (Hopper was a pupil), loved to discuss art, literature and culture, often late into the night: Living in Philadephia from 1891 to 1895, Henri taught all day and talked all night, which did not leave him much time for his own work. (p. 22)

It must have been hard for him to watch changes in the art world sweeping through:

In 1910 they (the Eight) organized the enormous Independent Exhibition which anybody could get into as long as he was a friend of Henri. Then, in 1913, his friends put on the immense Armory Show. When the other side, the abstract side, won, they could not believe it; they could not believe it all their lives. They went on doing good work but they did not conquer. The realist revolution did not take place, but the abstract revolution did. (The Eight, Mahonri Sharp Young, p. 12)

What do you think? Can't close without this sidebar: Did you know that his real name was Robert Henry Cozad, but after his father argued with a cattleman, the rancher drew a knife and Henri's father shot him? The family fled town, the rancher died from his wound, and the senior Cozad was charged with murder. The family all changed their names and the boys passed off as adopted sons. Apparently Henri covered up the story his entire life, despite the fact that the murder charges were eventually dropped. (p. 16)


  1. It's the rare artist who can paint someone broadly smiling without ghastly results. I would think Hals was among the first to really do it.

    Completely off-topic, for which I beg your pardon, but was there ever a more Mormon name than Mahonri Sharp Young?

  2. I don't think Mahonri is going to top any baby name lists this century, but you're right: a quick search turned up Mahonri MacIntosh Young as the grandson of Brigham Young. Wondering if Mahonri Sharp is the great grandson. . .his dad was involved with the Ashcan school, apparently.