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Robert Henri

Born: 1865, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America
Died: 1929, New York, New York, United States of America

Street Corner in Paris
1896

Oil on panel
Image: 3 7/8 x 6 1/8 in. (9.8 x 15.6 cm)
Frame: 10 3/8 x 12 3/4 x 2 1/4 in. (26.4 x 32.4 x 5.7 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.70
Signed: Lower right: Robert Henri; also signed on the reverse lower right: Robert Henri/dated 1896; upper left numbered: 106A2 and inscribed lower right: Street corner in Paris
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Street Corner in Paris is one of Robert Henri's many oil sketches of the Parisian streetscape. It records a corner of an intersection, where a broad awning shelters a café typical of the French capital. The view is hemmed in by the facades of urban structures rising on the right, but in front of the café a tree softens the view. Figures, roughly indicated by quick dabs of color, crowd the sidewalks. The drab hues of the city are set off by touches of bright red, white, and blue like a subtle emblem of the artist's national identity. Henri's quickly made work is a pochade, or pocket-sized wood panel painting, a shorthand record of a scene painted on the spot. Using evident strokes and dabs of thick, tactile oil paint, in which the striated marks of individual bristles are visible, the artist painted with extreme rapidity and economy. On the left edge of the painting in particular, the grain and light brown tone of the wood support are visible beneath the dryly brushed darker paint.

Henri painted Street Corner in Paris during his second visit to Paris, between 1895 and 1897. On his first, in the late 1880s, he had been a student struggling to gain admission to the prestigious official Académie des Beaux-Arts and to find his individual artistic voice. He had adopted the bright colors and outdoor painting methods associated with French impressionism to paint landscapes on excursions outside the city. By the time of his second visit to Paris, however, Henri, now the leader of a group of progressive Philadelphia artists and illustrators, was on his way to formulating a new approach to painting, one that reinterpreted the French impressionists' anti-academic stress on modern life to create a powerful realism inspired by the vibrant brushwork and dramatic dark colors in the paintings of seventeenth-century Dutch and Spanish masters and the modern French painter Édouard Manet (1832–83).

Henri devoted much of his work on this second Parisian sojourn to oil sketches of street scenes such as Street Corner in Paris. He may have been encouraged to pursue the format of the pochade by his painting companion in Paris, Canadian artist James Wilson Morrice. The pochade became a means by which Henri explored the urban subject matter with which he would soon be identified.

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Provenance

The artist
C. W. Kraushaar Art Galleries, New York
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, 1982
Private collection, 1984
Sotheby's New York, New York, May 25, 1994, lot 104
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York (agent), Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1994
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

Collection Cameo companion piece, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, September 1996.

American Artists and the French Experience, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 12–August 27, 1997.

Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920 (The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–July 15, 1999. [exh. cat.]

Paris-New York, aller-retour. Une Modernité américaine en formation, 1875–1940. Oeuvres des collections de la Terra Foundation for the Arts et des Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (Paris-New York, Roundtrip. American Modernism in the Making, 1875–1940. Works from the Terra Foundation for the Arts and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, September 15–November 30, 2002. [exh. cat.]

Studied Abroad: Painted Impressions from the Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, September 6, 2003–April 4, 2004.

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Published References

Sotheby's New York, New York (Sale 6568, May 25, 1994): lot 104. Ill. lot 104 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 24 (checklist).

Cartwright, Derrick R. Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 24 (checklist).

Griffith, Bronwyn and Lee A. Vedder. Paris-New York, aller-retour (New York-Paris Round Trip). (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 17 (French), 86 (English), 106 (checklist); ill. p. 5 (color), fig. 2, p. 17 (color).

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