Robert Henri (1865–1929), Holland Sky Posted on July 21st, 2014 by

Holland SkyRobert Henri (1865–1929)
Holland Sky (Haarlem), 1907
Oil on panel, 5 1 ⁄8 x 6 3⁄8 inches
Hillstrom Museum of Art purchase with endowment acquisition funds

This landscape is from a 1907 trip abroad Henri made with students from the New York School of Art. Holland was at that time a favorite spot for American artists to visit, and Haarlem, in the west of the country, was a draw because of it being the birthplace of the great seventeenth-century Dutch master Frans Hals (c. 1580–1666), one of Henri’s artistic heroes. He and his students made several visits to the Halsmuseum in Haarlem, where they studied and copied works by Hals, and they had outings to sketch and paint the local scenery and inhabitants. Henri painted a number of landscapes during this stay in Haarlem, often in the open air (on an easily portable panel of the type used in this painting). He wished to capture an immediate response to the environment around him, an approach he tried to teach to his students, whom he admonished to “work quickly. Don’t stop for anything but the essential . . . It’s the spirit of the thing that counts.” Henri followed that approach in this painting, which is a wonderful evocation of the red-roofed dwellings and dramatic, cloud filled sky that characterizes Haarlem and its expansive location by the sea. The painting is spontaneous and energetic and relies on Henri’s masterful brush work, which, following the manner of his idol Hals, describes or suggests the scene with bold and fluid handling of paint laid out in broad masses of color. The painting was formerly owned by collector Julian Foss of Montclair, New Jersey, who owned several works by Henri, including a pastel now in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The Hillstrom landscape is signed and dated on its back and the location Haarlem is noted. Also inscribed on the reverse is “99E,” which refers to the artist’s inventory record books. Henri scholar Valerie Leeds has exclusive access to these books, which are held by the Henri Family, and she kindly checked the entry for the Hillstrom Collection painting, which gives Henri’s title Holland Sky.

Text from the catalogue for the exhibition The Eight, The Ashcan School, and The American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection, presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art February 25 through April 21, 2013.


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