Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain

Telfair Museums presents the landmark exhibition “Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain” October 18, 2013 through March 9, 2014 at the Jepson Center, located at 207 W. York St. on Telfair Square in Savannah, Ga.

Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain is the first museum exhibition dedicated to the Spanish paintings of Robert Henri (1865-1929), one of the most influential American artists of the early 20th century. A leading proponent of the urban realist style that characterized the art of the Ashcan School, Henri was widely celebrated as a painter and a teacher. As a leading figure in the Ashcan School, Henri played a pivotal role in the history of American art as one of the key organizers of the progressive 1908 exhibition of The Eight, a group of artists who protested the ultraconservative National Academy of Design. Throughout his career, Henri championed the realistic portrayal of contemporary life.

Born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati, Ohio, Robert Henri was raised in Nebraska and changed his name after his father became implicated in a manslaughter charge after a dispute with a rancher in Nebraska.

Spain and its people held a particular fascination for Henri, who was attracted to the nation’ssunny climate, ancient culture and spirited citizens. Henri traveled to Spain seven times between 1900 and 1926 and produced a substantial body of work inspired by that country’s citizens and culture. His portraits present a dazzling cross-section of Spanish society—famous dancers, dashing bullfighters, spirited gypsies, blind street singers and weathered old peasants—as he masterfully captures the spirit of unique individuals. Henri’s portraits reflect his admiration for the great Spanish masters Diego Velasquez and Francisco Goya, whose works he studied closely.

Henri’s Spanish canvases were well received during his lifetime; many quickly found homes in prominent museum collections around the country. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City purchased Henri’s Spanish Gypsy in 1914, its first acquisition by an Ashcan School artist, and has loaned it to the Telfair for Spanish Sojourns. Other American museums also have made major loans, culminating in a groundbreaking exhibition that presents more than forty of Henri’s Spanish works. Together, the paintings reveal Henri’s ongoing commitment to portraying the essence of Spanish tradition.

The exhibition has been in development for over five years and was inspired by one of the most beloved paintings in the Telfair’s collection. La Madrileñita, which typically hangs in the Telfair Academy, originally purchased directly from Robert Henri for the Telfair by Gari Melchers in 1919.

Spanish Sojourns will tour nationally, traveling to the San Diego Museum of Art and the Mississippi Museum of Art after its time in Savannah. The exhibition has been awarded major grants from prestigious institutions including the National Endowment for the Arts.

Spanish Sojourns is accompanied by a fully illustrated hardcover catalogue that presents new scholarship on Henri and places his work in the context of the other American artists, architects and writers who were inspired by Spain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Spanish Sojourns is organized by Telfair Museums.

Images from the exhibition:

La Madrileñita, Robert Henri, 1910, oil on canvas

Robert Henri, Blind Singers, 1912. Oil on canvas, 33 ¼ x 41 ¼ in. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1966. 66.2434.

The Spanish Gypsy, 1912, Robert Henri, Metropolitan Museum, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1914 (14.80)

Robert Henri, Portrait of El Matador Felix Asiego, 1906. Oil on canvas. Robert Henri Estate, LeClair family collection.

Robert Henri, The Green Fan (Girl of Toledo, Spain). Oil on canvas, 1912. Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.

Robert Henri, Gypsy Mother (Maria y Consuelo), 1906. Oil on canvas. Robert Henri Estate, LeClair family collection.