Frequently credited as the instigator for America's formal break with European artistic tradition, and the entry of modern American art into common acceptance, painter Robert Henri was also known during his life as an inspirational teacher and rebellious artist.
He was a founding member of "The Eight" who staged their own exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908 as a rejection of the establishment attitudes towards art. The group worked to accurately portray everyday life and remove limitations from their artistic expression.
Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he journeyed to Paris in 1888 to study at the Academie Julian under Bouguereau, and where he affiliated himself with Impressionism. Eventually he was admitted into the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts as well, and took excursions to Italy and Brittany during his studies.
Returning to Philadelphia in 1891 he befriended several likeminded artists, and began his teaching career at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. His new friends would gather at Henri's home and they would draw and discuss their philosophies. Over the next few years he would begin to draw away from Impressionism, calling it the "new academicism".
He spent several years migrating between Paris and New York, and began to exhibit on both continents. He also began to teach at the New York School of Art in 1902, and by 1906 was elected to the National Academy of Design. Within only a year he would sever his connection over the rejection of several submissions to the annual exhibition, saying the jury was too biased.
Thus, The Eight were born and Henri's permanent connection to avant garde art in America. In addition to The Eight exhibition he was involved with the Exhibition of Independent Artists in 1910 and the famous Armory Show of 1913. He taught at the Art Students League from 1915 to 1927, and died in 1929.