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In 1873 when a young Robert Co - zad (later Robert Henri) stepped off a Union Pacific Rail Road train at Wil - low Island, Nebraska with his family, little could he have known how much his life would be changed by his experi - ence on the Great Plains. When he left Nebraska eleven years later, at the age of nineteen, he was a strapping youth with a Western swagger which can still be seen in late nineteenth century pho - tographs.


Many a Robert Henri aficio - nado, admirers of his art, and biogra - phers have speculated about how his Nebraska experience affected his future career. There is no doubt that his career was guided in part by his having spent some of his most formative years on the frontier exposed to the rawness of the environment and the difficult challeng - es that those early settlers faced. When one reads Henri’s, The Art Spirit, one can see that there remained in him a part of this Nebraska legacy.


When Henri speaks of the freedom of the individual to create what he wanted and express it in his own way, to some degree that would have been a common sentiment held by the homesteaders, settlers, businessmen and railroaders that he knew on the Great Plains from 1873-1884. Nebraska was one of those signposts that he referred to in his book, a place on the way as he might have said. He wrote in 1923: There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the mo - ments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge .


This is the story of Robert Henri’s Nebraska experience, when he was known as Robert Henry Cozad or as Bob Cozad to his fellow settlers on the Great Plains

Nebraska Sign-posts: Robert Henri'sYears on the Great Plains

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