Morning Coffee with Dave and Robert Henri


The Prophetic Fire of Robert Henri

What we need is more sense of the wonder of life and less of this business of making a picture. . . . People have not looked largely at life, mainly because our education drowns us in detail.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I am amused, recalling a quote from Mark Twain about not allowing school to interfere with his education. As I have posted before, I always thought I was dull while growing up in public school, and didn’t realize till university days that actually I was quite alert to many issues surrounding me, and that life itself was dazzling compared to what I knew in public school classrooms. Now, recently retired from high school teaching, I feel this sense of dread that many students sitting in my classroom environment could have felt exactly as I did when I was their age–bored to tears. In less than an hour, I will return to my high school where I taught full time and deliver one more art history lecture to the Academic Decathlon team.

Though my lecture covers American Art of the 1960’s, I chose this morning to re-open my Robert Henri volume, a book I have read twice in its entirety, and have returned to many times for spot-reading. I find his writings as electrifying as the details I read of the man himself. He was like a Prophet among his disciples, later identified as The Ash Can School. His apartment/studio at 806 Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia was the biggest small room in the world. It was here that he met with his group (they called themselves The Eight) of newspaper illustrators-turned-painters. To light fires under their artistic imagination, he read to them from Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And in addition to his body of artwork, he continually lectured in public, taught classes, and wrote critical art reviews. We are so enriched that his collected writings have been published under the title The Art Spirit. They continually rekindle my artistic fires.

Lately, I have experienced a hiatus in making art, mostly due to the college semester heating up in its third week, along with the daily inconvenience of living in a house without water, while waiting for plumbers to complete repairs on a slab leak. I have been living like a camper in my suburban home, and it is getting old. My hope is that I find a way this weekend to get back into the studio and complete some work that needs my attention. Then I would love to launch into a new series of paintings.


Nearly Finished with This One

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “Morning Coffee with Dave and Robert Henri”

  1. Sandra Conner Says:

    Robert Henri is correct. And as I read that quote, I was reminded of something I’ve said repeatedly about my college years. I went to a university in the midwest which was one of the very few universities in the States that offered a complete “English As a Second Language” program. So our school was truly inundated with students from all over the world. I felt at the time — and have said ever since — that I learned much, much more from interacting with those people from all over the world during those years than I ever learned from the classes I took.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Excellent response, thank you. I would not trade in my education for anything, but I indeed gleaned the best of it from self-feeding. Emerson and Thoreau both believed (as did the existentialists) that real education was self-driven, the person needs to be hungry and aggressive enough to feed that hunger. I still love attending lectures, and really love it when I find good ones on YouTube. And now that I am retired, it is precious to read what I wish to read, rather than something I have to fashion into some kind of teaching model.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: