Robert Henri was an artist and portrait painter who is most well known for being one of the founders of the artistic movement known as the Ashcan School. He was born Robert Henry Cozad on June 25, 1865 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Starting in 1886, Robert Henri attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania, before moving abroad to study painting in Paris. While in Paris, Henri first studied at the Academie Julien before he was eventually admitted to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. While in Paris, he studied impressionism, although he would later reject this form and turn to a more realistic approach.
In 1891, he returned to the United States and moved back to Philadelphia where he began to teach at the Philadelphia School of Fine Arts for Women. It was in Philadelphia that he began to attract a group of artists who would meet with him at his studio for discussions on art and culture. A group of these artists would later be known as the Philadelphia Four. These artists were John French Sloan, William Glackens, Everett Shinn and George Luks. In 1902, Robert Henri moved to New York and was soon followed by the Philadelphia Four. This group would eventually form the Group of Eight along with Ernest Lawson, Arthur B. Davies, and Maurice Prendergast. It is the Group of Eight who were the leaders of the Ashcan School, famous for its depictions of the tough life they saw daily living in New York City. Robert Henri believed that painting should show real life as much as possible in the same way that journalism depicts the true story. In the period from 1915 to 1927, he taught at the Arts Student League of New York, where he influenced many other great artists including George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, and Stuart Davis. In 1929, Robert Henri was named by the Arts Council of New York as one of the top three living American artists.
Ironically, he would die of cancer only a few months later on July 12, 1929. Overall, Robert Henri is most well known for the influence he had on other artists, although many of his more famous paintings still hang in some of the best galleries in the world.