Robert Henri


American Painter and Teacher

Author Quotes

All my life I have refused to be for or against parties, for or against nations, for or against people. I never seek novelty or the eccentric; I do not go from land to land to contrast civilizations. I seek only, wherever I go, for symbols of greatness, and as I have already said, they may be found in the eyes of a child, in the movement of a gladiator, in the heart of a gypsy, in twilight in Ireland or in moonrise over the deserts. To hold the spirit of greatness is in my mind what the world was created for. The human body is beautiful as this spirit shines through, and art is great as it translates and embodies this spirit.

Art need not be intended. It comes inevitably as the tree from the root, the branch from the trunk, the blossom from the twig. None of these forget the present in looking backward or forward. They are occupied wholly with the fulfillment of their own existence.

Different men are moved or left cold by lines according to the difference in their natures. What moves you is beautiful to you.

I am always sorry for the Puritan, for he guided his life against desire and against nature. He found what he thought was comfort, for he believed the spirit's safety was in negation, but he has never given the world one minute's joy or produced one symbol of the beautiful order of nature. He sought peace in bondage and his spirit became a prisoner.

In my understanding of color, there is absolutely no such thing as color for color's sake. Colors are beautiful when they are significant. Lines are beautiful when they are significant. It is what they signify that is beautiful to us, really. The color is the means of expression.

Lines are results, do not draw them for themselves.

The artist should be intoxicated with the idea of the thing he wants to express.

The reason for the survival of the award system is purely commercial.

Those who cannot begin do not finish.

Why do we love the sea It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.

All outward success, when it has value, is but the inevitable result of an inward success of full living, full play and enjoyment of one's faculties.

Art tends toward balance, order, judgment of relative values, the laws of growth, the economy of living ? very good things for anyone to be interested in.

Do whatever you do intensely.

I am interested in the size of your intention. It is better to overstate the important than to understate it.

In search for the perfect beginning.

Look for echoes. Sometimes the same shape or direction will echo through the picture.

The artist should have a powerful will. He should be powerfully possessed by one idea.

The sketch hunter moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook.

Those who express even a little of themselves never become old-fashioned.

You form a society: that limits you. Adopt a name, and you've limited yourself again; draw up a constitution and bylaws and you've made a groove, a rut, that hampers your growth. You think you can fix your course and move straight along it. But sometimes the important thing is to strike out sidewise.

All real works of art look as though they were done in joy.

Battle against obscurity

Do whatever you do intensely. The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering. With him there is an idea which is his life.

I have heard it very often said that an artist does not need intelligence, that his is the province of the soul

In these times there is a powerful demarcation between the surface and the deep currents of human development. Events and upheavals, which seem more profound than they really are, are happening on the surface. But there is another and deeper change in progress. It is of long, steady persistent growth, very little affected and not at all disturbed by surface conditions. The artist of today should be alive to this deeper evolution on which all growth depends, has depended and will depend. On the surface there is the battle of institutions, the illustration of events, the strife between peoples. On the surface there is propaganda and there is the effort to force opinions. The deeper current carries no propaganda. The shock of the surface upheaval does not deflect it from its course. It is in search of fundamental principle; that basic principle of all, which in degree as it is apprehended points the way to beauty and order, and to the law of nature.

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American Painter and Teacher