Date of Degree
William H. Gerdts
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
American artist Robert Henri (1865–1929) has most often been identified as the organizer of the 1908 landmark exhibition of The Eight and leader of the progressive movement; however, his relationship to the American Southwest has been largely neglected in scholarly discourse. This dissertation examines and reevaluates the work from and impact of Henri's extended visits to the Southwest in 1914, 1916, 1917, and 1922. During these stays he produced a distinguished body of work that is among the creative pinnacles of his career.
Henri painted more than three-hundred and twenty-five works while visiting the Southwest; his principal mode of expression was portraiture of Native-, Asian-, and Hispanic-American subjects. His depictions of these multiethnic models is discussed in terms of his humanistic approach to portraiture. Issues of stereotypes, multiculturalism, and his portrayal of the exotic is also addressed by exploring his artistic choices and representation of these ethnic groups in the context of his overall production.
Henri's role in the development of the Santa Fe artist colony is also appraised. As a direct result of Henri's encouragement, Leon Kroll and George Bellows visited Santa Fe in 1917, and Randall Davey and John Sloan went in 1919. These artists brought their individual styles of New York realism to the Santa Fe art community. Henri's impact on the New Mexican work of these four artists has never been fully explored, as well as his association with the Taos art colony and the Taos Society of Artists, an organization with which he was affiliated from 1918 to 1922.
Though his Southwestern work forms a discrete body of work, many-artistic concerns within this corpus directly, relate to issues with which he grappled throughout his entire painting career, particularly in relation to his lifelong commitment to portraiture. Henri's Southwestern production will be examined regarding his choice of subject, interpretive approach, technique, and stylistic development, as well as the marketability and critical reception of this work. His Southwestern work is also placed and analyzed within the broader context of his career and oeuvre.
Leeds, Valerie Ann, "Robert Henri and the American Southwest: His Work and Influence" (2000). CUNY Academic Works.