HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri
Loading...

The Art Spirit

by Robert Henri

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
374328,918 (4.26)8
None

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 8 mentions

Showing 3 of 3
Six-word review: The seeing and doing of art.

Extended review:

You won't see many unqualified raves from me, but here is one. This book is wonderful and amazing. If you have any interest in art, whether it be Art or simply the art of doing something--anything--well, this book is rich with treasures for you. It grants insight as summer rain grants refreshment, as surrender grants grace.

The Art Spirit is not a conventional book in the sense of a sustained and integrated argument conceived as a unified whole. Rather, it's a compilation of articles, talks, correspondence, critiques, class notes, and other words of an inspiring teacher who was first of all a renowned and distinguished painter in his time, about a century ago. The whole expresses the understanding of art and the act of creation as he practiced them and as he taught them to a generation of students, among whom many were fanatically devoted to their teacher.

It's the sort of book one can open to any page and find something worth reading and worth thinking about. Epigrammatic in style, it makes memorable impressions, whether discussing the meaning of art and the place of art in the world or the importance of the shadow beneath the upper eyelid. At once abstract and concrete, it discusses with equal passion the role of attitude in the life and work of the artist and the technique of creating background space by applying pigment to canvas.

Although I ought to have heard of Robert Henri before, his name* was new to me when I began the fall series of adult-education drawing classes on September 8th. The instructor read an excerpt from the book at the first session, and I promptly ordered it from Amazon. I was halfway through reading it--and it's a fun read, calling for lots of underscores and penciled marginalia from an interactive reader like me--when, utterly coincidentally, I received an event notice from the nearby San Jose Museum of Art, where I'm a member: a three-hour portrait-drawing workshop on September 28th in conjunction with a special exhibit of portrait paintings of Robert Henri.

I made haste and finished the book by the night before the workshop.

On Sunday I went two hours early and saw the exhibit, searching in every painting for the very things he'd talked about in the book. Already my way of seeing was much affected. By the time I sat down in the classroom with a live model before me, my entire approach to drawing had changed. Following Henri's advice, I spent the first five minutes quietly looking at the model without a pencil in my hand, seeking awareness of what was beautiful about him and what excited my interest, and also looking for themes and dominant lines. I thought about the idea that I wanted to capture and convey.

While I drew, I sustained conscious attention to such things as that the space behind the model is mostly air; that the chair supports the body and the neck supports the head, solidly, in a weight-bearing way, with bulk and gravity; that the nose is relatively dark except for the highlight at the tip, which reveals the contour; and that I should make the folds of garments and draperies look like a landscape I want to visit. Every stroke of the graphite was informed by what I had read and seen.

One of the things I noticed right away was that the model, a grey-bearded man in his sixties with faraway eyes, was very aware of me drawing him. At break time he came over to see what I'd done. Henri's book made me think about an important way in which drawing from life creates a reciprocal relationship between artist and model, something you can't have when you work from a photograph: namely, the model's showing a sense of being seen in some deeper way than just superficial appearance.

When I'd finished my first two renderings, the instructor came by and called them "beautiful." I was astonished. Truly, I've always seen what's wrong with my drawings and never once thought they were "good" in any way that a loyal friend or relative wouldn't see. A group of students clustered around and looked, and one of them said, "You must have been doing this for a long time, to draw like that." In fact, until I started that very lightweight adult ed class during the summer, the last formal art instruction I'd had outside of public school--and the last time I'd worked from a live model--was a 10-week museum class when I was 14. I've done a lot of sketching in the past, on my own, though I hadn't drawn anything but random doodles for years; but I never had real help in finding the goodness in my faulty sketches, not until I read the Henri book. Suddenly it all just seems to work differently.

That's a powerful lesson.

As a retired person, I'm not about to embark on a full-scale art program or even undertake a modest second career. But I find my interest renewed in an activity I enjoyed as a teenager, and for $8.95 plus tax and shipping I've received an education delivered by a master. Whether you're a museum-goer or not, I think you can learn something exciting about whatever you do like to do from the teachings of a man who thoroughly grasped the marriage of knowing and doing.

----

*A note on the artist's name: despite its French appearance, it's not ahn-REE. It's HEN-rye. Really. Robert Henry Cozad (24 June 1865 – 12 July 1929) was born in Cincinnati. After his father became involved in a fatal shooting in a Nebraska town, he and other family members relocated and changed their names to escape the scandal. Robert chose the spelling and pronunciation of his new name.
( )
  Meredy | Sep 30, 2014 |
"Art when really understood is the province of every human being."

Thus begins one of the most remarkable books ever written on the subject.

The Art Spirit is comprised of various letters, articles, speeches, notes, and fragments of artist and art teacher Robert Henri. Ranging from several pages to single sentences and arranged somewhat haphazardly, these teachings nevertheless add up to a fairly comprehensive view of the purpose of art and the nature of the artist. He discusses technique, but emphasizes that technique is only a means to the end of artistic expression, not an end or expression in itself. Being an artist is about having a certain relationship to existence, a unique perspective on reality. Art is value-laden, and that's what makes it meaningful. Art isn't about simply making the best copy of nature, it's about seeing beyond the surface impressions and finding the deeper meaning of things, and selectively using what's given in nature to express that meaning: "The great artist has not reproduced nature, but has expressed by his extract the most choice sensation it has made upon him...The artist who does not use his imagination is a mechanic."

Even when he's discussing technique, Henri's teaching will greatly enhance anyone's appreciation of art. And much of what he says about technique is applicable at least by analogy to other art forms (such as literary expression or musical composition), and some of it to any kind of creative work.

The book's form makes it perfect for reading straight through, or for dipping in at random. A truly remarkable book. ( )
  AshRyan | Apr 8, 2012 |
This is one of those great books that I can read over and over again and never get tired of it. I can also pick it up and read it for 5 minutes at a time and still get something out of it.

The book is organized into small snippets/quotes of wisdom about art, life, and all matters in between. ( )
  conceptDawg | Aug 1, 2007 |
Showing 3 of 3
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0064301389, Paperback)

In this book are the essential beliefs and theories of a great teacher and American artist, Robert Henri. While it embodies the entire system of his teaching, with much technical advice and critical comment for the student, it also contains inspiration for those to whom the happiness to be found through all the arts is important.No other American painter attracted such a large, intensely personal group of followers as Henri, whose death in 1929 brought to an end a life that has been completely devoted to art. He was an inspired artist and teacher who believed that everyone is vitally concerned in the happiness and wisdom to be found through the arts. Many of his paintings have been acquired by museums and private collectors. Among them are the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Wichita Art Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:15 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The Art Spirit represents the best of the collected words, teachings, and letters of inspired artist and teacher Robert Henri. Filled with valuable technical advice as well as wisdom about the place of art and the artist in American society, this classic work continues t be a must-read for all aspiring artists and lovers of art. --Publisher's description.… (more)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
34 wanted8 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.26)
0.5
1
1.5
2 1
2.5 1
3 7
3.5 3
4 11
4.5 1
5 24

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 94,033,758 books! | Top bar: Always visible