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About Robert Henri  

Robert Henri 1900 LOC.tif

Robert Henri, 1900
Courtesy Library of Congress

Robert Henri (Robert Henry Cozad) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 24, 1865. He came to Nebraska with his family during the 1870s homesteading era. After his father, John Cozad, had a dispute with a local rancher whom he killed, the family changed their identity, and moved back East. Robert Henry Cozad, now Robert Henri, attended art school in Philadelphia and then went to France. He returned and became an important influence on the American art scene in New York City.

Henri taught in several art schools, including his own, and traveled the world painting. He painted in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Maine, and New Mexico. While visiting Spain, France, Holland, and Ireland, he created an amazing body of work, samples of which are displayed here. Henri lived in New York City and died of cancer on July 12, 1929.

Henri the Teacher

The influence of Robert Henri as a teacher is one that continues to be felt even ninety years after his death. It is believed that he taught at least one thousand students, one hundred of whom went on to important careers. Among those who were the most well-known:  Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Margery Ryerson and Elizabeth Grandin.

The best way to describe Henri’s influence on American art might be to liken his career to a large oak tree. He represents the trunk of a tree that has spread its many branches upward and outward. Those branches are represented by his many students over the decades. Even today he is considered to be one of America’s greatest art instructors and his book, The Art Spirit, is still used in art classes and read by budding artists.

The Art Spirit, 1923

By Robert Henri

Margery Ryerson, a student of Robert Henri, was responsible for the creation of two of America’s classic art instruction books including Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit and Charles Hawthorne’s Hawthorne on Painting. In both cases she collected lecture notes and commentary from the artists and organized them into book form. The Art Spirit came out in 1923 and remains in print today. Charles Hawthorne (1872-1930) was the creator of the Cape Cod School of Art and one of her earliest instructors. His book was published in 1960.


Art instructors the world over continue to use The Art Spirit when teaching, and it remains an inspirational work to many artists old and new. Since the time of its publication it has never gone out of print as Henri encouraged artists to express themselves freely. It is considered to be one of the most influential art books ever written in America. 

Copies of The Art Spirit along with Mari Sandoz's fictional account of Robert Herni's life in Nebraska entitled Son of a Gamblin' can be purchased in our gift shop.

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