Old Johnnie's Wife

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on canvas
Mark Descriptions
signed Robert Henri, lower right. Also inscribed verso, and numbered 13 i
Dimensions
31 x 25 in. 39 x 32 in. (framed)
Credit line
Gift of John J. Weldon in memory of his wife, Jean Dinwiddie Weldon
Accession number
81.795
Collection
Currently On View

This figure exemplifies the straightforward unidealized portraits favored by Henri.

The woman in this canvas lived off the coast of Ireland, where Henri and his wife vacationed.

Henri led the Ashcan School, a group of artists who focused on gritty urban realism.

The Estate of Robert Henri; (Chapellier Galleries, New York, New York, exclusive representative since 1963 of the Henri Estate, 1972); John J. Weldon and Jean Dinwiddie Weldon, Chilmark, Massachusetts, December 1972; Indianapolis Museum of Art
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Urban Realism

Robert Henri

Old Johnnie’s Wife, 1913

oil on canvas

31x 25 in.

Gift of John J. Weldon in memory of his wife, Jean Dinwiddie Weldon

Learn More

Robert Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati, Ohio.  When Henri was ten years old, his father, a gambler and real estate promoter, shot someone in self defense.  The family feared for their safety, moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, changed their name and passed their two sons off as adopted children.  Robert Henri chose a variation on his middle name as his surname and attended boarding school in New York City.  He received his art training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then attended the Academy Julian in Paris.  After spending several years in Europe, Henri taught at the Chase School of Art and the New York School of Art where he led a fight against Academic views.  In 1909, Henri established his own school and organized “The Eight,” a group of artists that rejected the restraints from the National Academy of Design.  The Eight favored a style that portrayed contemporary everyday life.  Five members of this group, including Henri, became known as the Ashcan School because of their depictions of the seedy side of life.  Henri favored portraits of ordinary people, while the remainder of the group focused primarily on everyday street scenes.

The subject of Old Johnnie’s Wife is a woman who lived on the Island of Achill, off the coast of Ireland, where Henri and his wife often vacationed.  Around 1909 he adopted the color system of theorist Hardesty Maratta, which assigns a letter and number to 144 harmonically related colors, enabling artists to plan the color relationships of their paintings.  The rich harmonies of this image are quite likely the result of Henri’s application of the Maratta system. 

Reference:

William Innes Homer. Robert Henri and His Circle, New York: Hacker Art Books, 1988. ISBN-13: 978-0878173266

Robert Henri. The Art Spirit, New York Harper & Row 1923, reprinted by Basic Books, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0465002634