Henri's Women . . . from page 1
This exhibition is the culmination of years of intense research initiated by Marian Wardle, curator of American art at the Museum of Art. Wardle and a host of BYU students spent four years uncovering the life stories and artworks of 441 women who studied under Henri.
Wardle says she began her research expecting to find that most of Henri’s women students were amateur dabblers, but the research told a different story. More than 200 of these women had successful professional art careers, exhibiting, teaching, and founding and administering arts organizations across the country.
"The study began as a quest to learn what had become of Henri’s numerous women students, to uncover their contributions, and to add them to the account of American art history,” Wardle says. “But during the years of research, it also became an examination of the accepted history of American modernist art that had excluded these women and many others.”
As a result of the research effort, nearly 100 artworks have travelled to the museum from 50 lenders scattered across the country.
The Influence of Robert Henri
Robert Henri is best known as the leader of a group of free-spirited artists who rebelled against the traditional artistic conventions of the early 1900s. Henri inspired this group of male artists, who were later known as the “Ashcan School,” to capture the living presence of what they saw around them, to replace the beautiful, polite subjects of the past with the grit of real life. Despite his influence as the group’s mentor, Henri stressed the importance of self-reliance and individuality in creating works of art.
In addition to his contributions with the “Ashcan School,” Henri influenced generations of art students as a teacher. Thousands of men and women studied under Henri in various art schools and numerous private classes. As a teacher, Henri instilled the same passion for individualism and self-expression in his students that he had encouraged among his “Ashcan School” colleagues.
Henri taught many aspiring women artists during his teaching career, encouraging them to free themselves from stylistic and social restrictions. He taught them to create art from what they knew, what they felt and what they experienced. This artistic philosophy had a powerful impact on Henri’s women students that resulted in the production of a remarkable variety of artistic expression. Some students followed Henri's naturalistic painting style while others experimented in varying forms of abstraction. Still others found the best avenue for their artistic expression through sculpture, printmaking and drawing. A few students even ventured into the realm of costume, set and furniture design. Following the ideals espoused by their mentor, these “New Women” pushed the envelope of traditional gender roles and created opportunities for themselves that were unimaginable only a few years earlier.
In fact, 14 of Henri’s women students exhibited their work at the 1913 Armory Show, which many art historians regard as the most significant art exhibition in the United States during the 20th century.
In addition to participating in the important exhibitions of the day, Henri’s women students also played a significant role in spreading his modern art philosophy. After studying with Henri, his women students engaged in professional art careers in every region of the United States, and in foreign countries such as Canada and France. Many of these women became art teachers themselves and transmitted their modern ideals to a new generation of artists.
New Subjects, New Styles, New Attitudes
The early 1900s were marked by monumental change. Modern inventions electricity, the automobile, assembly line production, sleek airplanes and skyscrapers revolutionized the American way of life. Social developments, such as the women’s suffrage movement, had a significant impact on American society. Changes also extended to the very make-up of the nation’s population. The arrival of 15 million immigrants between 1890 and 1915 changed the complexion of the country’s demographics.
These technological and social changes provided new subjects for artists of the era. Domestic scenes, like Ada Gilmore’s watercolor of quilts hanging on laundry lines, were revolutionary when compared to the subjects portrayed by the male artist majority. Margaret Law, Elizabeth Olds and Henrietta Shore’s paintings of racial minorities are evidence of the modern democratic philosophy of breaking down class, race and gender barriers. Self-portraits, like the paintings by Florine Stettheimer and Kathleen McEnery, show strong, confident women.
In addition to exploring new subjects, Henri’s women students experimented with an amazing variety of media and styles. They experimented with bold colors, angular forms and, new or revived techniques. Margaret Bruton’s “Helen at Sargent House Studio” is an example of the use of striking, bold colors. Helen Loggie who originally studied painting with Henri also experimented in drawing and etching. Elizabeth Eyre de Lanux’s “Tapestry Rug with Indian Motif” is an example of the many decorative arts produced by Henri’s women students.
The art of Henri’s students also demonstrated their new, modern attitudes. Minerva Teichert’s “Zion Ho! (Handcart Pioneers)” portrays the pioneer woman as a central figure in the westward expansion. And Hilda Belcher’s “Go Down Moses” illustrates the humanity of African Americans at a time when segregation was still a part of the nation’s culture.
I hope visitors will have a memorable experience interacting with the remarkable works in this exhibition,” Wardle says. “And I hope they learn that more American women artists participated in the creation of modern art than just Georgia O’Keeffe.”
Thoroughly Modern: The ‘New Women’ Art Students of Robert Henri” is free and open to the public during regular museum hours. The exhibition continues through August 27, 2005. Click here for more info.
Organization Profile: Salt Lake City
by Laura Durham
What do you get when you bring together a child pathologist, a nurse, a teacher, a business owner and an intellectual property attorney? An artist group, of course. These individuals are all members of an artist support group called Painters6.
Painters6 began over five years ago when six women met on a painting excursion to Italy with artist and Lifelong Learning instructor Willamarie Huelskamp. Huelskamp had begun an artist group and mentioned how much she got out of it, so Cheryl Coffin, Julie Morriss, Erin Rosenberg, Chris Kapsa, Nancy Swanson and Joy Nunn joined forces and initiated an endeavor that would help them achieve their artistic goals.
One of the members, Joy Nunn, explains: “It’s really easy to not have time to do art when you’re already working. So being in this group forces us to create something. We meet once a month, and we each have an assignment to bring a piece to each meeting for a critique. It helps to have that hanging over your head when you’re not in an actual art class.”
Nunn finds it beneficial to have five other people with similar interests but different artistic perspectives to talk to about her artwork. “Because we do different things like printing, oil, watercolor and monotypes, it’s nice to share what we’re learning. We’re not art students in a university setting, so there’s a lot we don’t know. I go to art supply stores and I don’t know what everything is for. So it’s really nice to share not only our finished product, but the process as well. Consequently some of us have branched out to try different things.”
Sharing information has endless advantages and provides opportunities that an individual attempting to begin an art career on their own might not have. “We do a critique, we share information. Anytime I see a notice about a juried show, Gallery Stroll or seminars at the Utah Arts Council, I share that with the group because they may or may not have seen it. We also share information about classes we’ve taken, classes we’re thinking about taking. One of our members is an intellectual property attorney. We got into a big discussion about the copyright issues when it comes to artwork. We haven’t run out of things to talk about.”
Besides providing a forum for critique and sharing of materials and technique, a group such as Painters6 has financial advantages: a group of artists has collective buying power. Supplies are always less expensive in bulk, and sharing studio space brings down the rent considerably. An artist group also provides unique exhibit opportunities. It takes a long time to develop enough work worthy of an exhibit, but if you partner with five other artists, your body of work increases substantially.
Joy Nunn started out with two paintings to her name hardly a marketable body of work. But after three years, Painters6 felt that, collectively, they had something worth showing somebody. “We started by having a show in Ogden at a coffee shop. We had some nice comments, but we didn’t sell a thing. We learned that with most coffee shops, people come to drink coffee and talk, not to buy artwork.”
Painters6 decided to exhibit at friends’ homes, and discovered they had more success when they made it an art event with an invited guest list. Combining mailing lists broadened each artist’s audience. As Nunn says, “You can only hit up your friends and relatives so long.” Organizing an exhibit is a learning process, but having the support of others with different ideas and skills makes it easier. “It’s just a way for people who are beginning to get a taste for what it takes to put on a show schlepping it here and there, what you need to set it up. I don’t think I would have experienced these things if I did this on my own.”
Painters6 now consists of eight women, all professionals outside the artistic field but with a common interest in creating art and learning more. “As long as we have the time and the interest, I would like to keep the group going. I feel my work has evolved as we continue to put our work out as a group.”
Painters6 will exhibit at the Anderson-Foothill Library in Salt Lake City (1135 South 2100 East) through May 4, 2005. A public reception will be held Thursday, March 17 at 7 PM.
Exhibition Preview: St. George
Women Artists of Santa Fe
The St. George Art Museum will present “Women Artists of Santa Fe” from April 8, 2005 through June 30, 2005.
The pioneering exhibit features eighteen women artists who made major contributions from 1914 until 1964. This pioneering exhibition will include paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture, drawn from public and private collections across the United States. This exhibit was curated by Michael Grauer and originated at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. It was their last exhibition in their series honoring the centennial of the Santa Fe Art Colony.
Women have been integral to the Santa Fe Art Colony since Olive Rush first visited in 1914. Artists include Louise Crow, Rosa M. Curtis, Clyde B. Gartner, Gina Knee, Margaret Lefranc, Dorothy Morang, Laura van Pappelendam, Polia Pillin, Alice Schille, Hella Shattuck, Eugenie Shonnard, Agnes Sims, Dorothy Stewart, Pansy Stockton, and Agnes Tait.
The opening for the Public is Friday, April 8 from 6 to 8pm. The St. George Art Museum is located at 47 E. 200 N. in St. George, UT 84770 (directly across from the Main Post Office at the corner of Main and 200 North).
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