In the summer of 1915, Robert Henri escaped from reminders of the Great War in New York and travelled with his wife, Linda, and fellow artist couple George and Emma Bellows to Ogunquit, Maine, a haven for artists at the time. Henri described Ogunquit as, "a sort of straggling village made up of quiet-seeking respectables and natives and a considerable artist's colony..." Regarding the models, the artist at first found that "there were plenty of children ready to earn the money, but they were...not inspiring..." (as quoted in B.B. Perlman, Robert Henri: His Life and Art, New York, 1991, p. 118) By August, however, Henri had changed his opinion after finding a settlement of gypsies who served as models, and inspired him, particularly the present sitter, Lily "Cow" Cooper.
The three-year-old Lily was one of Henri's favorite subjects that summer. In reference to compositions of Lily, Henri wrote, "it appears that after all our coming here will prove a rather good thing for I already have a few things that are very good." (as quoted in V.A. Leeds, My People: The Portraits of Robert Henri, exhibition catalogue, Seattle, Washington, 1994, p. 24) She posed for thirteen works, only four of which remain. Although depicted in a moment of quiet contemplation in the present work, Lily was a particularly ebullient child. Henri said of her, "No regular Methodist-born Maine child can dare to laugh with such freedom." (Robert Henri: His Life and Art, p. 119)
Little Country Girl depicts Lily in a calm moment that allows her youthful innocence to shine. Emphasized by the bright light illuminating her face, the white of her dress, and her rosy cheeks, the present work captures the purity of childhood. The bright blue shirt and loosely patterned, red and green background rendered in Henri's distinctive bold brushwork, add vigor to the tender scene. Indeed, it is Henri's ability to capture the vitality and essence of his sitter which garnered his role as leading artist at the turn of the twentieth century. As Valerie Leeds writes, "The artistic status he acquired was founded on portraiture, his principal mode of expression, which was defined by the candid perceptions of his 'people' as revealed through incisive characterizations. Not for some time, if ever, has any artist successfully achieved a comparable rank with portraiture." (My People: The Portraits of Robert Henri, p. 42)
We wish to thank Valerie Ann Leeds for her assistance with cataloguing this lot.