Robert Henri – painter, teacher, and upstart leader of ‘The Group of Eight’ that challenged plaster cast idealism and Bostonian gentility. No figure of importance can claim to be closer to the eye of the storm when European modernism arrived at the beginning of the 20thcentury. Yet it is not an exaggeration to declare that as a portrait painter, Henri leaves his most enduring mark. He shares with John Singer Sargent all the dash and flair but without the flattery. For Henri was through and through an American and a painter intent upon expressing something insightful about our native character.
A full figure costume study painted in 1921, Girl with Muffis an emphatic reaffirmation of Henri’s embrasure of historical influences – Manet, Hals, and Velazquez, after a time distinguished by a brightened palette inspired by travels to New Mexico and California. Painted with broad, flat areas of color and strong contrasts of light, it reinforces the artist’s intent on using an economy of means delivered with unsentimental restraint. Girl with Muffresonates with these hallmarks of authentic American realism – a simple statement of fact painted directly with a fresh, unvarnished impression.