Robert Henri (1865-1929), Portrait of Fay Bainter, 1918, oil on canvas, 41 x 32 7/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of R. Phillip and Linda Rasmussen, 1991.
This week, on June 24th, we celebrate the birthday of the celebrated American painter and teacher, Robert Henri (pronounced Hen-rye). He was a central figure among the Ashcan School of American artists, a group known for embracing unromanticized scenes from everyday life. Henri had a significant impact on many artists studying in New York City in the early decades of the twentieth century, including the young LDS artist Minerva Teichert.
An avid theater-goer, Henri painted this portrait of the actress Fay Bainter just as she was beginning to make a name for herself on Broadway. Henri painted numerous portraits of actors and dancers and saw parallels between his art and the expressive qualities of their craft. Bainter—representing musical theater and film, two very American products—characterized Henri’s strong advocacy for a national art based on American experience.