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Cori with Cat, 1907

Artist: Robert Henri, American, 1865-1929

Medium: Oil on canvas

Painting: 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm)
Frame: 30 3/4 x 26 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. (78.1 x 67.9 x 8.9 cm)

Credit Line: Memphis Park Commission purchase

Object Number: 54.1

On View

Estate of Robert Henri, 1929; Mrs. Robert Henri; Mrs. Violet Organ (Mrs. Henri's sister), 1954 (sold through; Hirschl & Adler Gallery, New York, New York)

Robert Henri was born in Cincinnati and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. During his second trip to Europe in 1895-1900, Henri turned from Impressionism to a realist style that was influenced by the work of Frans Hals and Rembrandt. The change was not merely superficial.  Henri, who exerted an enormous influence as a teacher and the author of The Art Spirit (1923), encouraged American artists to paint in a straightforward style that communicated their enthusiasm for contemporary urban life. Known both as "The Eight" and more disparagingly as the "Ashcan School," the artists associated with Henri opposed what they saw as the decorative and superficial nature of art created by painters like the American Impressionists. Instead, they painted sympathetic images of city and slum dwellers, developing a democratic art with ties to Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau.

 

Cori with Cat is a fine example of the vibrancy that Henri injected into painting through a loose, gestural brush stroke reminiscent of Hals.  Additionally, Henri encouraged artists to paint quickly as a means of capturing the living presence of the subject, which can be seen in this portrait. The slashing strokes of Cori's shirt and face energize the image and contribute to the impish appearance of the sitter.