16
16
Robert Henri
AT FAR ROCKAWAY
Estimate
700,0001,000,000
LOT SOLD. 735,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
16
Robert Henri
AT FAR ROCKAWAY
Estimate
700,0001,000,000
LOT SOLD. 735,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

American Art

|
New York

Robert Henri
1865 - 1929
AT FAR ROCKAWAY
signed Robert Henri (lower left); signed again and inscribed with the artist's record book number and "The Beach"/"FAR ROCKAWAY IN 1902" (on the reverse); titled FAR ROCKAWAY (along the left and right tacking edges)
oil on canvas
26 1/4 by 32 inches
(66.7 by 81.3 cm)
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Provenance

Estate of the artist
Estate of Marjorie Organ Henri (his wife)
[With]Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1933
Horace Havemeyer, New York, 1933 (acquired from the above)
Mrs. Richard S. Perkins, by 1943 (acquired from the above)
Private collection
[With]The Jordan-Volpe Gallery, Inc., New York, by 1991
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts, Ninth Annual Exhibition, April-May 1923, no. 52, n.p.
New York, Macbeth Gallery, March 1933, n.p.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Robert Henri Memorial Exhibition, March-April 1931, no. 10, pp. 4, 17, illustrated n.p.
Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Museum, The Eight, November 1943-January 1944, no. 1, p. 25
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum; Denver, Colorado, Denver Art Museum; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915, May 1994-May 1995, no. 42, pp. 119, 323, 366, illustrated fig. 108, p. 188; also illustrated p. 88 (detail)
Greenwich, Connecticut, Bruce Museum, Painterly Controversy: William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri, January-April 2007, no. 4, p. 66, illustrated p. 67
Washington, D.C., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Variations on America: Masterworks from American Art Forum Collections, April-July 2007
Nashville, Tennessee, Frist Center for the Visual Arts; New York, New York Historical Society; Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts, Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925, August 2007-May 2008, no. 59, illustrated p. 179

Literature

Robert Henri, Diary, July 13-14, 1902, n.p.
Edward Alden Jewell, "Macbeth Gallery Opens New Exhibition of Robert Henri's Work, Including Portrait of Luks," The New York Times, March 8, 1933, p. 16
Guy Pène du Bois, "The Eight at The Brooklyn Museum," Magazine of Art, vol. 36, no. 8, 1943, p. 295, illustrated
Nick Madormo, "The Early Career of Alfred Maurer: Paintings of Popular Entertainments," American Art Journal, vol. 15, no. 1, Winter 1983, p. 19, illustrated fig. 15
Bennard B. Perlman, Robert Henri: Painter, Wilmington, Delaware, 1984, fig. 22, p. 160, illustrated p. 69
Evan Levine, Family Guide - American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915, New York, 1994, no. 4, illustrated n.p.
Edward H. Madden and Marian C. Madden, "Transcendental Dimensions of American Art," Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, vol. 32, no. 2, Spring 1996, p. 170
William H. Gerdts, William Glackens, New York, 1996, p. 40, illustrated pl. 29
Pamela N. Koob, "States of Being: Edward Hopper and Symbolist Aesthetics," American Art, vol. 18, no. 3, Fall 2004, p. 62
Kimberly Orcutt, "Painterly Controversy: William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri," Antiques & Fine Art Magazine, Spring 2007, pp. 183, illustrated fig. 2, p. 180
Norman A. Geske, Beyond Madness: The Art of Ralph Blakelock, 1847-1919, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2007, pp. 60, 166

Catalogue Note

 “Our future freedom rests in the hands of those whose likeness will be in their dissimilarity, and who will not be ashamed of their own originality, whatever the fashion may happen to be” (Robert Henri, The Art Spirit, New York, 1923, p. 169).

Among the most important modern landscapes of early twentieth-century American Art, At Far Rockaway represents Robert Henri at a pivotal moment in his career. Painted in 1902, it is an extraordinary example of Henri’s assimilation of broad-brushed European Impressionism with his desire to promulgate a national art based on a distinctly American experience – the central tenet of his artistic philosophy. Henri understood and valued the unprecedented freedom offered to American artists, who, unburdened by centuries of European artistic traditions, were free to engage with a multitude of artistic theories and developments. Henri asserted that these artists, without specific or settled guidelines based on the past, should search within themselves to identify original and individualistic modes of representation for their own national identity. 

At Far Rockaway epitomizes the culmination of Henri’s struggle to synthesize his academic training with the wave of Impressionism that he encountered while a student in Paris. By 1902, Henri had deliberately shifted away from his early high-keyed Impressionist palette towards an individualistic approach based on the painterly styles of Édouard Manet, Diego Velázquez, Jusepe de Ribera, and Francisco de Goya, whose work he encountered firsthand when he returned to Paris the summer of 1895. In December 1896, Henri attended a major exhibition of Manet’s work at Durand-Ruel in Paris. The influence of this show would have a deep and lasting impact on the developing artist, who returned to the United States combining Manet’s bold brushstrokes and rich, dark tonalities with a distinctly American quality, exemplified in At Far Rockaway.

Through his works, teachings, and writings on art, Henri turned the attention of a generation of important American artists, including George Bellows and Edward Hopper, toward the Spanish tradition of painting.  The influence of this tradition is clearly displayed in At Far Rockaway, which shows one of Henri’s earliest and most complete applications of this gestural European style. With vigorous bravura defined by confident and rapid brushstrokes in the manner of Velázquez, At Far Rockaway combines Manet’s rich but limited palette (Fig. 1) with fresh bursts of color. Completed in a year in which Henri finally achieved both critical and commercial success, At Far Rockaway expresses the artist’s self-assurance and poise, particularly evident in his masterful simplification of form. In his writing and teaching, Henri was an ardent champion for the development of a national art, a fact apparent in his choice of characteristically American subject matter: “Undoubtedly there is a great deal to be said in America that has never been said in any other land, but does the growth of our art so much depend upon skill in saying as upon the weight of the statement? What is truly necessary to our real progress is sufficient skill to present a statement simply and then to use the skill to show forth the great fresh ideas with which our nation is teeming” (Robert Henri, as quoted in Bruce W. Chambers, “Robert Henri: American Independent, Robert Henri (1865-1929): Selected Paintings, New York, 1986, p. 8).

In this depiction of Far Rockaway, Henri anticipated the works of other notable artists from his circle, including Bellows, John Sloan, and William James Glackens who celebrated the shared, democratic outdoor spaces in and around New York City. Similar to Bellows’ and Glackens’ depictions of Coney Island, At Far Rockaway showcases the mixing of urban social strata in one of New York’s popular seaside playgrounds (Fig. 2). Typical of American progress and expansion, the construction of the Rockaway Railway in 1873 was the first catalyst in the development of the Rockaways as a leisure destination for New Yorkers. With the advent of improved transportation services and the erection of an oceanfront boardwalk at the turn of the century, the Rockaways became a favored tourist destination for day trips from New York. Painted four years after the Rockaways were officially absorbed into the City of Greater New York, At Far Rockaway depicts the elevated boardwalk, a main attraction in the area, or one of a number of popular bathing pavilions offering comfort and shade to beachgoers. In its celebration of modern seaside leisure, the present work shares much in common with the subject matter of the French Impressionists, whose work Henri had carefully studied while a student in Paris.

By 1902, Henri had decisively cast aside his taste for conservative academic painters and the fashionable Impressionist palette he had previously favored. Due in part to the teachings of Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anshutz, as well as his study in Paris and Spain in the late 1890s, Henri began to fully embrace the painterly style of Manet and his lodestars – Velázquez, Goya, Ribera, and Frans Hals. More immediately, and as embodied in At Far Rockaway, Henri also fostered a profound admiration for the seascapes of American artists James McNeill Whistler (Fig. 3) and Winslow Homer (Fig. 4). In April 1902, he wrote of the importance of that year to his career: “I really do believe that the big fight is on and I look for a great change in the attitude toward the kind of art I have been doing in the coming year” (as quoted in William Inness Homer, Robert Henri and His Circle, Ithaca, New York, 1969, p. 107).

By that spring, Henri’s prospects for widespread critical and financial success as an artist began to materialize. He was offered a one-man show at Macbeth’s gallery on Fifth Avenue and accepted eagerly, believing this to be his long-awaited chance for public recognition outside of the small circle of artists, critics, and dealers who admired his work. Bryon Stephenson, the art critic for Town Topics, perfectly summarized Henri’s growth up to this point: “He grew dissatisfied with mere prettiness in art and started to work out his own salvation by trying to forget all he had learned and throwing technique to the winds. His work is forcibly individual, and the very strength of that individuality will make his pictures caviar to the general. He has stood face to face with Nature, and then painted as he feels. He carries away with him only the impression of what he considers worth remembering, and in placing it on a canvas employs his brains as well as his brush. That he had yet ‘arrived’ he would probably be the first to disclaim, for he is ever experimenting with Nature and studying her infinite moods” (as quoted in Ibid., p. 109).

Henri and his wife, Linda, spent the summer of 1902 at his in-law’s summer home in Black Walnut, Pennsylvania. Roaming the countryside northwest of Wilkes-Barre, he produced some of the freshest and most striking landscapes of his entire career. On July 13, 1902, during the height of the summer, Henri made a short day trip to Far Rockaway, where he produced a sketch of the present composition on-site. The following day, he described his idea for the final oil in his diary: "blue sky. sun yellow pavilion...tel[ephone] pole brilliant colors of people on beach, walk and in pavilion. blue strip of sea" (as quoted in H. Barbara Weinberg, American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915, New York, 1994, p. 119).  

At Far Rockaway showcases Henri at his most confident, fresh from unprecedented praise from critical and popular opinion alike. Later that year, Henri accepted a teaching post at the New York School of Art. Here, he cemented his legacy as one of the most influential teachers in the history of American Art, instructing a number of important artists including Hopper, Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Stuart Davis, among many others. In the ensuing years, Henri became a founding member of the influential Ashcan School. Although the Ashcan artists were not truly an organized school and adopted somewhat diverse styles and subjects, they were all comprised of urban Realists who supported Henri’s doctrine—“art for life’s sake,” rather than “art for art’s sake."

American Art

|
New York