Robert Henri (1865-1929)
Property Sold to Benefit The Foundation for Community Empowerment
Robert Henri (1865-1929)


Robert Henri (1865-1929)
signed 'Robert Henri' (lower right)--signed again and inscribed with title (on the reverse prior to lining)
oil on canvas
24 x 17 in. (61 x 43.2 cm.)
Painted in 1917.
The artist.
Estate of the above.
[With]Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1962.
[With]Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Private collection.
[With]Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1986.
Providence Art Club, 41st Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, exhibition pamphlet, Providence, Rhode Island, 1920, n.p. Kennedy Quarterly, vol. 4, no. 2, New York, December 1963, p. 77, no. 75, illustrated (as Little Indian Girl).
Flint Institute of Arts, Artists of the Old West, exhibition catalogue, Flint, Michigan, 1964, n.p.
V.A. Leeds, Robert Henri in Santa Fe: His Work and Influence, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1998, pp. 76-77, 169, pl. 14, illustrated.
V.A. Leeds, Robert Henri and the American Southwest: His Work and Influence, Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York, 2000, pp. 267-68.
New York, Kingore Galleries, and elsewhere, Taos Society of Artists, November 15-27, 1920, no. 14 (as Little Indian Girl).
Providence, Rhode Island, Providence Art Club, 41st Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, March 23-April 11, 1920.
New York, Association for Culture, 1922.
Boston, Massachusetts, Robert C. Vose Galleries, Paintings by Robert Henri, N.A., November 18-December 7, 1940, no. 6.

Lot Essay

A leading member of the Ashcan group of painters, in 1902, Robert Henri took a decisive shift away from gritty urban cityscapes and into figurative compositions almost exclusively. "I regretted there was but one of me, for...if there were two, I could then paint both the people and the landscape...I would like to be in many activities....But good painters have little time to go afield." (as quoted in V.A. Leeds, Robert Henri: The Painted Spirit, New York, 2005, p. 13) Henri's transition to rendering likenesses afforded him the opportunity to concentrate on the effusion of character as embodied in the facial expressions of the subjects he painted. In the present work through bold brushwork and his bravura style, Henri succeeds in capturing the strong yet restrained temperament of a young Native American girl, Florencia.

Committed to the faithful depiction of character as conveyed through portraiture, Henri was especially inspired by the less familiar, more exotic models that he encountered in his travels. Of particular interest to Henri were the people he came across in the American Southwest. In 1916, he made his first visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was so inspired by the people he encountered there that he made two subsequent trips for the sole purpose of painting. As Henri himself noted, "I am looking at each individual with the eager hope of finding something of the dignity of life, the humor, the humanity I do not wish to explain these people I only want to find whatever of the great spirit there is in the Southwest. If I can hold it on my canvas I am satisfied." (as quoted in Robert Henri: The Painted Spirit, p. 25)
Painted in 1917, Florencia evokes this spirit that Henri was seeking to convey. "Henri's portraits of the Southwest culminated during his second visit to Santa Fe, in the summer of 1917, when he executed some of his most innovative and elaborate compositions. Once he hit a stride, he experienced a creative burst that resulted in a stream of sizable portraits of two remarkable models he found." (Robert Henri: The Painted Spirit, p. 25) Painted three-quarter length, the young girl sits for the artist in traditional clothing with a native blanket draped over her shoulder and wrapped around her waist. Henri accents the figure's face with rosy cheeks and warm red-orange lips. Her stare is directed just past the viewer, eliciting an alluring sense of mystery as the viewer is forced to consider what she is focusing on beyond. This element of unknowing contributes to the artist's successful capturing of the profundity of her soul. Henri heightens the drama by employing a strong raking light, which casts shadows off of her features and reflects off the shine of her silky, dark hair and glistening eyes. With a freedom of brush and a warm palette of earth tones, Henri develops the sitter's clothing adding rich texture to the composition. According to the artist's record book, Henri revisited the composition in 1919, and cropped the canvas to its current size while also repainting the broad brown "waist" as he referred to it and adding geometric shapes to the blanket.

Florencia exemplifies the hallmarks that make Henri's portraits of the Southwest some of his most desired work. As Henri noted, "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, that is, who are in some way expressing themselves naturally along the lines of nature intended for them. My people may be old or young, rich or poor, I may speak their language or I may communicate with them only by gestures. But wherever I find them the Indian at work, the Spanish gypsy, the little boy, my interest is awakened and my impulse immediately is to tell about them through my own language--drawing and painting in color." (as quoted in Robert Henri: The Painted Spirit, p. 14) A captivating portrayal of emotional expression, Henri's Florencia comes to life through the artist's powerful brushstrokes through which he unveils the intensity of her soul.

We wish to thank Valerie Ann Leeds for her assistance with cataloguing this lot.

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