New York, William Macbeth Gallery, 1922
Rochester, New York, Memorial Art Gallery, Paintings by Robert Henri, 1926
New York, William Macbeth Gallery, 1926
Rochester, New York, Memorial Art Gallery, 1994
"Henri discovered Santa Fe on an extended visit in 1916 and returned there the following year. Hoping to repeat the venture, it was June of 1922 before he travelled there again. With its unique ambiance, multi-cultural population, and wonderful light, Henri produced a significant body of Southwestern portraiture over the course of three extended seasons in Santa Fe.
"On the 1922 visit, it was October before Henri turned his attention to painting local subjects, having been distracted by a commission and social commitments during the first part of the visit. Mixed-race Hispanic-Native American models, such as the young girl depicted in Berna, dominated his production during the 1922 Santa Fe visit. Berna Escudero, the model for Berna, was his most frequent subject that fall, posing for eleven portraits, and Berna was the first likeness of her he completed.
"Henri's Southwestern portraits are among his most progressive in terms of design and color. By 1922, he simplified palettes and streamlined the compositional design in his portraiture. As in Berna, the portraits are most often three-quarter views of the subject and are simply structured with dark backgrounds. In several of the portraits of Berna Escudero, to set off her dark coloring and soulful beauty, he used the tan coat with red and white clothing and the accent of the gold earring for contrast. Most often, her ethnicity is downplayed though in several portraits, most notably in this composition, he includes the details of a Native-American rug draped over the arm of the chair to add visual interest and to reinforce the color scheme. The rug was a prop he kept in his studio and used in a number of the Southwestern likenesses. This painting is closely related to Bernadita (1922; San Diego Museum of Art), which is the second essay he did of her.
"Henri did not widely exhibit the Southwestern portraits during his lifetime. This work, however, is a notable exception, as it was shown at three venues. His Southwestern work forms a discrete body of work within his oeuvre; in these portraits, he addresses many of the same objectives that preoccupied him throughout his artistic life."
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