Thursday, October 14, 2010

Robert Henri Quotes and Comments

I love to read! And I don't mean a Kindle. I NEED books! Books that feel right when I turn the pages. Big books with big, colorful illustrations. Books whose textured pages smell good. Glossy magazines. Books I can dog-ear, write in, highlight, underline and draw in. Books with encyclopedic information. Books with almost no text at all. Books I can drop in a tub ('Rats! Did it again!) No, you'll not find a Kindle in my hand.

Anyway, the following quotes are by Robert Henri, 1865-1929. I gleaned them from two books, The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri, and Artist to Artist, Inspiration and Advice from Artists Past and Present, compiled by Clint Brown, both books are very encouraging books to me.

“Art is simply a question of doing things, anything, well… when the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature… He finds gain in the work itself, not outside of it.”

“You can’t know too much about composition. That is; the areas you have to fill, their possibilities, but you must, above all, preserve your intense interest in life. You must have the will to say a very definite thing. Then, the more you know your means the better. Great works of art should look as though they were made in joy. Real joy is a tremendous activity, dull drudgery is nothing to it.”

“Your education must be self-education. Self-education is an effort to free one’s course so that a full growth may be attained. One need not be afraid of what this full growth may become. Give your throat a chance to sing its song. All the knowledge in the world to which you have access is yours to use. Give yourself plenty of canvas room, plenty of paint room. Don’t worry about your originality, set yourself just as free as you can and your originality will take care of you. It will be as much a surprise to you as to anyone else.”

I like that one. As an art teacher, I tell my kids that it’s my job to stuff them with facts, knowledge and skills. In doing so, I’m freeing them and giving them the tools to be the creative, thinking people that they’re meant to be. I recently met a quite talented but untrained artist. I could see she could be very good, but her work was unimaginative and uninspiring. She said she didn’t want to take art classes because she didn’t want to be told what to do or be stifled. Little did she know that she had stifled herself and denied herself the very thing that would give her art the freedom to soar! I felt sorry for her.

Next quote:

“Those who have lived and grown at least to some degree in the spirit of freedom are our creative artists. They have a wonderful time. They keep the world going. They must leave their trace in some way, paint, stone, machinery, whatever. The importance of what they do is greater than anyone estimates at the time.”

Amen, Robert! And I also believe that artists really do enjoy life more than others – our senses are opened wider and we receive much more.

“When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and opens ways for a better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it and shows there are still more pages possible.”

“Artists must be men of wit, consciously or unconsciously philosophers, read, study, think a great deal of life, be filled with the desire to declare and specify their particular and most personal interest in its manifestations, and must invent.”

“Do not require of your work the finish that anyone may demand of you, but insist on the finish which you demand.”

I’m guessing most serious artists don’t need to hear that one. I’m very hard on myself and my work.

“There are pictures that manifest education and there are pictures that manifest love.”

‘I like your work and have only to ask you to go on your own interesting way with all the courage you can muster.’

I like it! I’m sending my students off at the end of the year with that quote!

“It’s the wrong idea that a master is a finished person. Masters are very faulty, they haven’t learned everything and they know it. Finished persons are very common – people who are closed up, quite satisfied that there is little or nothing more to learn…I have met masters now and again, some in studios… running a boat, playing a game, selling things. Masters of such as they had. They are wonderful people to meet… they do not say ‘I am only a carpenter or a gardener, therefore not much can be expected from me.’ They say or they seem to say, ‘I am a Carpenter!’ ‘I am a Gardener!’ These are masters, what more could anyone be!”

Well, this unfinished person is going to bed. If there are any other unfinished persons out there, let me know what you think. Good night!


  1. This was a very inspiring post with much food for thought. I think the quote you plan to send your students off with at the end of the year should encourage them to keep creating and keep pressing on. I also agree that the best education is self-education and we are never done. There is always so much more to learn. We must dig out the information for ourselves for it to become our own. It cannot be spoon fed to us.

    If we do not have a passion for what we are doing, our art or whatever else, there will be no life in it; and it will not inspire anyone. It will not add beauty to our surroundings or any other beneficial thing. We must believe in what we are doing, find joy in it and pour ourselves into it so that we and it may blossom. Our art and the way we live should be an example to others and encourage them to reach for greater heights.

  2. Hello!! You are great Cynthia...!!
    I belive in you... Are you an angel..??
    Big hugs from Sweden..


  3. Hey, Roger,
    I really enjoyed your blog - wow! I've always wanted to work three-dimensionally! It's beautiful!

    No, I am most certainly not an angel! In fact, quite a trouble-maker! :) However, my sins and faults are covered by what Christ did on the cross, and I'm glad to be forgiven when I go astray.