The Art Spirit, Robert Henri

"Insist then, on the beauty of form and color to be obtained from the composition of the largest masses, the four or five largest masses which cover your canvas.  Let these above all things have fine shapes, have fine color."

"The most vital things in the look of a face or of a landscape endure only for a moment. Work should be done from memory.  The memory is of this vital movement."

"When you saw the thing and it looked beautiful to you, you saw it beautifully.  Paint it as it looked then."

"Do not look at the background to know its colors or its shapes.  Look at the model.  What you will see of the background while looking at the model will be the background of the model."

"If there are objects in the background they must not be painted because they are interesting in themselves.  Their only right of existence is as complementary or harmonic benefits to the head or the figure."

"A human body bathed in the color of the atmosphere surrounding it, luminous and warm in its own color…. The color of the background is not as it is, but as it appears when the artist is most deeply engaged with the figure in front of it.  It is not seen with a direct eye."

"All manifestations of art are but landmarks in the progress of the human spirit toward a thing but as yet sensed and far from being possessed."

"Art is the inevitable consequence of growth and is the manifestation of the principles of its origin. The work or art is a result; is the output of a progress of development and stands as a record and marks the degree of development.  It is not an end in itself, but the work indicates the course taken and the progress made."

"Painting should be done from the floor up, not from the seat of a comfortable chair."

"Originality: Don’t worry about your originality.  You could not get rid of it even if you wanted to.  It will stick to you and show you up for better or worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do."

"The great artist has not reproduced nature, but has expressed by his extract the most choice sensation it has made upon him."

"No material thing is beautiful.  All is as beautiful as we think it."

"Art after all is but an extension of language to the expression of sensations too subtle for words."

"Pictures that have had months of labor expended on them may be more incomplete than a sketch."

"Study reproductions and pictures you like in this matter of rhythm, organization, concentration, balance, dominance."

"The dominant eye.  Note that there is a compositional relation between the eyes—that is, one eye commands the greater interest.  If you paint them equal, no matter what the position of the head, the observer will get no right conception of them."

'Your eye does not follow the muscle and bone making the arm.  It follows the spirit of life in the arm."

"A canvas may be measured with inches, but the speed with which you travel over it is regulated by the artist.   A line may plunge you into silences, into obscurity, and may bring you out into noise and clarity."

"The eye should not be led where there is nothing to see."

"All good art is composition."

© 1923

Michael WeiComment