The Art Spirit - Book Review

The Art Spirit - by Robert Henri 1865 - 1929.

Robert Henri was an American painter and teacher. He was a leading figure of the Ashcan School of American realism and an organizer of the group known as "The Eight," a loose association of artists who protested the restrictive exhibition practices of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design. He developed a looser style of painting with definitive brush strokes.



This book is a compilation of letters and notes. No fancy pictures, well no pictures at all actually. Even the foreword says "No effort has been made toward the form of a regular book". It is not really a book for beginners as much of what he has to say will not be understood. Having said that though, I think that if you are prepared to read it in small bytes, even as a beginner, there is much to be gleaned from this text.


Trying to read it like a novel, may not be the best idea.


My advice would be to read it like those books with inspirational quotes. Just read a chunk and get your artistic inspiration of the day. It does have an index so you can look subjects up in the back.

The contents in the front divides the book into three sections:

  1. Forward by the author.

  2. Notes, Articles, Fragments of Letters and Talks to Students.

  3. Notes taken by M>R> from Robert Henri's Criticisms and Class Talks





It is a highly philosophical, abstract text and focuses mainly on concepts. It will inspire you if you are already following an artistic path and bore you to death if your artistic background consists only of "how to draw in easy steps" books. It does have practical and technical advice for figure drawing, use of colors and composition, in the form of mainly letters and critiques, given to art students with theoretical and practical knowledge under their belts.



Some subjects he talks about:

- What to pay attention to when drawing portraits.

- Truly do art and not just copy what is in front of you.

- Use techniques and medium to transmit that emotion you want to transmit.

- Proper figure drawing.

- Things to consider when using color.

- Don't just follow what you are taught and never stop self-learning.

- Paint the world as you see it and not as others wants you to.

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