The Old Model (Old Spanish Woman)
60.9 cm x 51 cm (24 in. x 20 1/16 in.)
Robert Henri (aka Robert Henry Cozad)
(Cincinnati, Ohio, 1865 - 1929, New York City)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991
An influential teacher and the outspoken founder of a new, progressive style of realism, Robert Henri is perhaps best known for his acutely sensitive portraits of common people, whom he sought out during his travels around the world. Unlike his contemporaries, who painted commissioned portraits of wealthy industrialists and their families, Henri preferred what he considered to be the deeper and more complex characters of workers, peasants, beggars, and entertainers. He was particularly fond of sitters in Spain, evident in this work, and visited there several times for lengthy painting excursions between 1906 and 1912, and again in 1923–1924.
In an article he wrote in The Craftsman in 1915, he said, “The people I like to paint are ‘my people,’ whoever they may be, wherever they may exist, the people through whom dignity of life is manifest, who are in some way expressing themselves naturally. . . . My people may be old or young, rich or poor. . . . But wherever I find them, . . . my interest is awakened and my impulse immediately is to tell about them through my own language—drawing and painting in color.”
Perhaps because of the breadth of his foreign experiences, Henri was a champion of the particularities of regional character and encouraged artists in the United States to paint details of everyday American life.