An innovative leader in the first wave of modern American art, Robert Henri set upon his artistic path in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art from 1886 until 1900, where he studied and taught while making trips back and forth between Philadelphia and Paris. While in France, he immersed his studies in the palettes and brushworks of master Impressionists and the darker expressions of artists such as Edouard Manet. Henri soon after set up a studio in New York City which becomes a focal point for emerging artists.
Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad in the town of Cozad, Nebraska, a place founded by his father, a riverboat gambler who found enough trouble to force the family to change their names and move. His first forays in Philadelphia were under the tutelage of Thomas Anshutzran following the style of Thomas Eakins. Once established in New York, besides being a popular teacher to students such as Edward Hopper and Rockwell Kent, he joined with other artists of his association to present a 1908 show in the Macbeth Gallery, titled "The Eight". This well received showing of artists, many previously rejected by other venues, is recorded as he first American modern art moment.
As his studies went, so did Robert Henri's artistic works. A gamut of early realism and emotional moods expose his vision, and he was recognized with his unique sale of a dark urban snow scene in 1899 to the Luxembourg Museum in Paris. His evolution through Impressionism and his innovative color use, combined with his penchant for scenes of urban and social significance established his unique place in American art. The commercial success of "The Eight" exhibition marked that group as the pioneering force of modern art in the 20th Century.
The seven artists who were lead by Robert Henri in their singular 1908 show that establish their prominence are Everett Shinn, John Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, George Luks and William J. Glackens; included in collections worldwide. Robert Henri's works alone are in more than 40 museums.