The Laughing Boy by Robert Henri

Robert Henri, American Artist, 1865–1929
The Dutch Joe (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 60.96 × 50.8 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, WI, USA http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533
Frans Hals, Dutch Artist, 1582/83-1666
Laughing Child, circa 1620-1625, oil on wood, Diameter: 27.94 cm, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), CA, USA https://useum.org/artwork/Laughing-boy-Frans-Hals-1625
The Laughing Boy (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 61 × 50.8 × 2.5 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, USA
https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/

Published on October 14, 2018at the Historians of Netherlandish Art Reviews, I read: Frans Hals was rediscovered as a modern idol two hundred years after his death. He was admired, even adored by late 19th-century artists such as Édouard Manet, Max Liebermann… Vincent van Gogh…  and American artist Robert Henri, I would like to add. They were all impressed by his loose touch and rough painting style, which came across as ‘Impressionist’… Comparing paintings by Frans Hals to work by the artists whom he inspired gives insight into how modern Frans Hals was in their eye and why they used to say that ‘Frans Hals, c’est un moderne’. The Laughing Boy by Robert Henri is a painting that shows how Frans Hals influenced an American artist of the Ashcan School as well… https://hnanews.org/frans-hals-and-the-moderns/

Robert Henri Photo Portrait, circa 1897, Black and white photographic print, 19 x 9 cm, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington DC, USA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Henri_1897.jpg

About 1900, a group of Realist artists set themselves apart from and challenged the American Impressionists and academics. They came to be known as the Ashcan School and Robert Henri was a leading figure among them. The Ashcan School artists selectively documented an unsettling, transitional time in American culture that was marked by confidence and doubt, excitement, and trepidation. Ignoring or registering only gently harsh new realities such as the problems of immigration and urban poverty, they shone a positive light on their era. Along with the American Impressionists, the Ashcan artists defined the avant-garde in the United States until the 1913 Armory Show introduced to the American public the works of true modernists Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and others. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ashc/hd_ashc.htm

Robert Henry Cozad (1865-1929 ) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Theresa Gatewood Cozad and John Jackson Cozad, a gambler and real estate developer. The family, in a true “Wild West” story of land dispute and fatal pistol shooting, fled from Cincinnati to Denver, Colorado where young Robert changed his name to Robert Earl Henri, and in 1883, the family moved to New York City, and then, to Atlantic City in New Jersey. In 1886, a twenty-one years old Robert Henri enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, one of the finest Art Schools in the US at the time, where he studied under Thomas Anshutz. Later, in Paris, Henri studied at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts. From 1888 to 1891, when he returned back to Philadelphia, Robert stayed and traveled in Europe where he came to admire greatly the work of Francois Millet, and embrace Impressionism. Back in the United States, Robert Henri gradually became a fine Art teacher and an acclaimed artist, a leading member of the Ashcan School, an organizer, and a contributor artist of a landmark show entitled “The Eight” in N York. Robert Henri was an avid traveler, an influential Art teacher, and a great mentor to women artists in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Henri

The Laughing Boy (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 61 × 50.8 × 2.5 cm, Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, USA
https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/
Robert Henri, American Artist, 1865–1929
The Dutch Joe (Jopie van Slouten), 1910, oil on canvas, 60.96 × 50.8 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, WI, USA http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533

During the summers of 1907 and 1910, Henri worked in the Netherlands, where he became captivated with the work of Frans Hals (1580-1666), the Dutch painter known for using lively brushwork to create animated portraits. Hals, according to the Birmingham Museum of Art in the US, made a number of pictures of laughing children, which Henri sought to emulate in his own paintings of Dutch youths. Henri described the subject of this canvas, Jopie van Slouten, as “a great, real human character to paint.” Robert Henri painted a second portrait of the Dutch boy, known as Dutch Joe, and exhibited it in the Milwaukee Art Museum. For his second portrait of young Jopie van Slouten, Henri said: “Jopie thought it was a great joke to pose, and I thought him a great, real character. I consider it one of my successes in an effort to record a boy as he was.” http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13533 and https://www.artsbma.org/collection/the-laughing-boy-jopie-van-slouten/

Frans Hals, Dutch Artist, 1582/83-1666
Laughing Child, circa 1620-1625, oil on wood, Diameter: 27.94 cm, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), CA, USA https://useum.org/artwork/Laughing-boy-Frans-Hals-1625

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Between October 13, 2018, to February 24, 2019, in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, a very interesting exhibition took place titled Frans Hals and the Moderns. This exhibition showed the enormous impact of Frans Hals on modern painters. It was for the first time, that portraits of the famous 17th-century Dutch artist were presented alongside modern artistic reactions to his work… like the Laughing Boy by the American Robert Henri. https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/nl/event/frans-hals-en-de-modernen/

View of the 2018 Exhibition in Harlem titled: Frans Hals and the Moderns
https://www.franshalsmuseum.nl/en/event/frans-hals-and-the-moderns/

Baroque Bliss

If you ask my humble opinion, Hals’s painting of a Young Man and Woman in an Inn epitomizes Baroque Bliss! There is merriment in the way the woman cautiously leans over the young man. There is joy in how the young man laughingly raises his flask with his right hand and affectionately caresses an attending dog with his left. Extravagance in the background decoration is obvious in every aspect. So much so that a landscape painting hangs over the tavern’s mantle! The artist’s painting technique is equally excessive. With fluid movement and loose brushstrokes… is Hals implying that the painting was executed with speed, to catch a moment of great enjoyment? In the words of Walter Liedtke “…all artificial elements are swept away by a way of sensations: light, air, movement, and, one imagines, taste smell, and noise.”

The Baroque is an elusive word and an interesting style to explain and understand. The first step I usually take, is to think of descriptive adjectives that best characterize the period: extravagant, theatrical, dramatic, grand, luxurious, sensual, majestic, opulent… to mention only a few. I also try to compare Baroque period artworks from different areas in Europe, a landscape painting for example by Claude Lorrain to a Rubens one. The differences are extraordinary, yet there are striking similarities. Finally, the word Baroque itself comes from the Portuguese word barroco, a term used to describe an irregularly-shaped pearl. How extravagant can it get! The Baroque style, dated during the 17th century, originated in Rome, spread all over Italy, from Sicily to Venice, and became particularly popular in Spain, France, and the Low Countries.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a large and quite representative collection of Fans Hals paintings. The Young Man and Woman in an Inn is one of their finest examples.  Frans Hals: Style and Substance, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Frans_Hals_Style_and_Substance?Tag=&title=style%20and%20Substance&author=&pt=0&tc=0&dept=0&fmt=0

For a Student Activity on Young Man and Woman in an Inn, please… check HERE!

Medusa

Elementary level student work

Medusa was once upon a time an entrancing maiden, the only mortal sister of the three Gorgons, attractive for her beauty originally, feared as an image of evil later, when Athena’s anger turned her into a hideous monster… According to the Roman Poet Ovid (Metamorphoses 4.770), Athena was so fierce in her punishment, Medusa’s hair was transformed into venomous snakes, and her once lovely face, looked upon, petrified the viewer.

To save his mother Danae from the much-unwanted attention of king Polydectes of Seriphos, young Perseus was tasked with the impossible, killing Medusa. Perseus, however, was not alone and helpless in his adventure. He carried with him divine gifts, Athena’s mirrored shield, Hermes’s gold, winged sandals, Hephaestus’s adamantine sword and Hades’s helmet of invisibility. According to Ovid Perseus was successful, Medusa head was cut and ultimately ended up in Athena’s Aegis.

“Medusa in Ancient Greek Art” is a Metropolitan Museum of Art article worth reading: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/medu/hd_medu.htm

“flee, for if your eyes are petrified in amazement, she will turn you to stone,” wrote Gaspare Mustola, an Italian poet and writer of the 17th century, and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted the most amazing Medusa head of all time!

Caravaggio, 1571-1610
Medusa, 1597, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 60 cm × 55 cm, Uffizi, Florence

My Grade 3 students love the terrifying Myth of the Medusa and creating a Mask is always a successful Activity! The best Mask by far is offered by the Cleveland Museum of Art… which I use every year with student enthusiasm and great success! https://www.clevelandart.org/sites/default/files/documents/other/MakeaMaskofMedusa.pdf

For a PowerPoint on the student Mask Activity… check HERE!