ROBERT HENRI (1865-1929)
ROBERT HENRI (1865-1929)
ROBERT HENRI (1865-1929)
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ROBERT HENRI (1865-1929)
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Property from the Phillips Family Collection
ROBERT HENRI (1865-1929)

Juanita in Blue

Details
ROBERT HENRI (1865-1929)
Juanita in Blue
signed 'Robert Henri' (lower right)—signed again, inscribed with title and artist's record number (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm.)
Painted in 1917.
Provenance
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Chapellier Galleries, New York.
Lee E. Phillips, Jr., Wichita, Kansas, acquired from the above, 1965.
By descent to the late owner.
Literature
Art and Archaeology, vol. VII, January-December 1918, p. 53.
American Art News, vol. XVII, no. 20, February 22, 1919, p. 2.
El Palacio, vol. 8, nos. 7-8, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 1920, pp. 183, 225.
V.D. Coke, Taos and Santa Fe: The Artist’s Environment, 1882-1942, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1963, p. 115n27.
D. Melnick, "Art at the Mexican Front: Robert Henri, George Wesley Bellows and Leon Kroll in New Mexico 1916-1922," M.A. thesis, University of New Mexico, 1970, p. 91, illustrated.
Wichita Art Museum, Views, Wichita, Kansas, 1995, cover illustration.
V.A. Leeds, "Robert Henri and the American Southwest: His Work and Influence," PhD diss., City University of New York, 2000, p. 251, fig. 5-20, illustrated.
Exhibited
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Museum of New Mexico, Dedication Exhibit of Southwestern Art, November-December 1917, no. 148.
New York, MacDowell Club, February-March 2, 1919.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Museum of New Mexico, Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, November 12, 1967-February 18, 1968.
Wichita, Kansas, Wichita Art Museum, Selections from the Lee. E. Phillips, Jr. and Anne Katherine Phillips Collection, April 9-June 25, 1995.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gerald Peters Gallery, Robert Henri in Santa Fe: His Work and Influence, October 10-24, 1998, pp. 24, 104-05, 170, fig. 29, pl. 28, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

A leading member of the Ashcan group of painters, in 1902, Robert Henri made a decisive shift away from gritty urban cityscapes and into figurative compositions almost exclusively. The artist explained, "I regretted there was but one of me, for...if there were two, I could then paint both the people and the landscape...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 figure painting 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, Henri succeeds through bold brushwork, color and style in capturing the strong yet thoughtful personality of a young Hispanic girl, Juanita in Blue.

Committed to the faithful depiction of character as conveyed through portraiture, Henri was especially inspired by the less familiar models that he encountered in his travels. Of particular interest 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, Juanita in Blue evokes this spirit that Henri was seeking to convey. Juanita posed in several paintings for Henri, including in a related work from 1917 in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California. Both paintings notably feature a unique abstract background of swirling, bold colors. According to Valerie Leeds, for this motif Henri “adapts an abstract design from a patch quilt that relates to the design motifs taken from Indian blankets that he had similarly used as a visual framework. The colors he selected for the background are not repeated or highlighted elsewhere in the figure or clothing, instead introducing a contrasting array of bright hues that set off and distinguish the figure from the flamboyant backdrop.” (Robert Henri in Santa Fe, exhibition catalogue, Santa Fe, New Mexico, p. 24)

Vibrantly conveying the essence of its sitter, Juanita in Blue exemplifies the hallmarks that make Henri's portraits of the Southwest some of his most desired work. As Leeds notes, "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." (Robert Henri: The Painted Spirit, New York, 2005, p. 25)

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