Loved it Here s what I wrote in my blog about itThere are so many bits of wisdom in Robert Henri s The Art Spirit that it s hard to know what to share I have wow and cool and neat written in red letters in the margins of just about every page But perhaps this is the most important thing Robert Henri talks about creating art as the one true happiness in life A man must become expressive before he can be happy, he writes the italics are mine Henri stresses, again and again, that we are all artists, or at least, we all have that capacity The urge to create is innate We all have the capacity to experience, to see, to feel, to care Making art is about caring, he says It seems that we get hung about art and who is an artist Maybe this started in high school, when we were either assigned to the science track or the art track Some silly bureaucratic proceduralism occurred, and we were subsequently scarred for life It doesn t have to be painting, sculpture, or music anything can be a form of art if we are expressing something that s unique and meaningful to us There are many forms of expression in life For me, teaching is a form of expression It s simply about being open to the world, noticing what we love, and expressing that love in whatever form best suits us The technique is secondary to the expression.Henri defines artistic expression broadly, as a giving back to the world Letting something speak to you, and sharing your expression of that thing with others It s not about the product, it s about being in that space of open sensitivity that makes art inevitable It s like we have to create because we re so moved by whatever we ve seen Have you noticed that When you re open to the world and beauty is streaming in all around you, the poem, the drawing, the music, happen spontaneously We re moved by the wonder of it all I also have two additional blog posts about this book that I won t copy over here If you re interested, here they are Robert Henri s Thoughts on Painting a ChildandRobert Henri and the Art Spirit The title of the book is quite accurate The Art Spirit deals with the inner drive of the artist and the pitfalls of art making Probably the most quotable art book I ve ever read, almost every page has some bumper sticker wisdom to dispense, all of it quite remarkable It can get quite recitative in parts and it is very much a product of it s time in it s ambition But, as a figurative artist, I find every art student should read it at least once The main idea of the book isn t groundbreaking but it bears repeating art is hard work that must be done by those who can t help it Once you believe art is your thing, there are states of mind conducive to genius and others that strive for imitation and avoidance Sacrifice will be necessary, social and economic success might ellude one and an indepence of thought will be essential. I can t do justice to this book, so won t try Only thing I will say is that my copy is held together by rubber bands. I did not tear through this book, but savored it Slowly, over a few weeks 10 20 pages at a time.I think any artist or creative person at any stage of their development can benefit from Henri, but I recommend this most for any aspiring, emerging or self taught artist out there who could use a light in the dark What is our personal style and where does it come from What is the appropriate balance of technique versus spirit , for lack of a better term How can we best unlock the expression within I ve wrestled with these and similar questions often on my own path and finding Henri was like falling into someone s arms after a very grueling struggle He pats you on the back and whispers Shh shhh, it s going to be okay, and you think, yes It will be. Amazing to read It fills the well. Here s a quote from The Art Spirit I once met a man who told me that I always had an exaggerated idea of things He said, Look at me, I am never excited I looked at him and he was not exciting For once I did not over appreciate Book includes philosophy of art and appreciation, concrete how to instructions, and comments of famous artists and works of art. Writers should never forget that fiction is an art form Henri speaks to the artist inside us all. I did a lot of drawing as a child and a young adult portraits of children mostly As I aged, my passion for art and the lives of artists increased, yet I kept dropping out of studio art classes as quickly as I enrolled This book helped me understand why Though restless to get started, I had nothing to say that compelled expression, and consequently felt on shaky ground As Henri points out, We are not here to do what already has been done An interest in the subject, something you want to say definitely about the subject this is the first condition of a portrait the work is done when that special thing has been said Caricaturists seem to understand this innately they hone in on a feature or gesture of their subject that gives voice to the character and temperament of its owner, as the artist sees it Just as everything is subordinate to the idea you, as an artist, need to express, so should the mass of the head be considered as principle to any feature of the head When expressing the feature, consider well its part in relation to the idea you have to express Economy and gesture are other principles It will not be so much a question of painting that nose as it will be painting the expression of that nose Alice Neel comes to mind Some of the most intriguing passages in this book concern solidity the employment of bulk as a factor of expression The weight and density of the sea The bulk and hard resistance of rock A blouse with a body in it A head with a back to it Henri tells us how hard solidity is to achieve We are very appreciative of the solid Yet most paintings and most drawing produce the impression of flatness Distances across the canvas are generally very nearly correct, but distance in, following the line of vision, hardly exists Distance in what a beautiful concept, especially when applied to portraiture It explains why I found Jamie Wyeth s graphite drawing of Ted Kennedy on view at a recent exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum in PA so magnificent It s a question of the life within. In This Book Are The Essential Beliefs And Theories Of A Great Teacher And American Artist, Robert Henri While It Embodies The Entire System Of His Teaching, With Much Technical Advice And Critical Comment For The Student, It Also Contains Inspiration For Those To Whom The Happiness To Be Found Through All The Arts Is ImportantNo Other American Painter Attracted Such A Large, Intensely Personal Group Of Followers As Henri, Whose Death In Brought To An End A Life That Has Been Completely Devoted To Art He Was An Inspired Artist And Teacher Who Believed That Everyone Is Vitally Concerned In The Happiness And Wisdom To Be Found Through The Arts Many Of His Paintings Have Been Acquired By Museums And Private Collectors Among Them Are The Balti Museum Of Art, The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, The National Gallery Of Art, The Whitney Museum Of American Art, The Wichita Art Museum, And Yale University Art Gallery This book has changed me as an artist and as a human being It really opened my mind to what art really is and how to be in that mysterious spiritual space that makes ART inevitable It s not just for artists though It talks a lot about spirituality and human beings in general and how every human being can be an artist it s not always expressed through the painting, drawing, the works It is a way of life, a way of knowing yourself as an individual, and a way of loving yourself the way you are Excellent book for students, whether they re students of art, or students of life Can t believe Robert Henri talked about all this over 100 years ago, and it s still incredibly relevant Must be true art
Robert Henri was an American painter and teacher He was a leading figure of the Ashcan School in art.
- 284 pages
- The Art Spirit: Notes, Articles, Fragments of Letters and Talks to Students, Bearing on the Concept and Technique of Picture Making, the Study of Art Generally, and on Appreciation (Icon Editions)
- Robert Henri
- 23 August 2019 Robert Henri