Saturday, November 12, 2016

Robert Henri and Cozad, Nebraska

In 1872, railroad workers in Nebraska noticed a man in a swallowtail suit with a gold-topped cane standing along a section of Union Pacific track. 

It was odd to see a well dressed man so far from a station, a man who looked like a gambler or a salesman. 

John J. Cozad (Richard H. Lee) by Robert Henri
His name was John J. Cozad. He declared that he was going to establish a town on the 100th meridian. At great expense and effort, he did so, and there he raised his family. 

But a dispute with a rancher named Alfred Pearson led to a gunfight. Cozad shot Pearson fatally. Although Cozad was cleared of the charges, Pearson's friends were likely to exact revenge.

So John Cozad was forced to leave the very town he founded. He and his sons changed their names. 

One son, Robert Henry Cozad, made up the name Robert Henri. So began an artistic journey that took him to Denver, New York, and Philadelphia, studying under Thomas Anshutz, and then in Paris under William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Robert Henri, Portrait of Frank L. Southern 
(label says "Southrn"), 1904
The Robert Henri Museum preserves the legacy and some of the art in the family's original home. Cozad, Nebraska,  Out behind the house, there's a one-room museum with some of Henri's portraits, including one of his brother Frank.

Robert Henri, Self-Portraits with Beards
There are also framed pages of Henri's sketchbooks, including this self portrait with various beard options. It's no wonder, given his past, that he was interested in disguises.

His life of adventure translated to his teachings on art. He said in his inspirational book The Art Spirit "Do whatever you do intensely. The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering.”
The Robert Henri Museum


A Colonel of Truth said...

Henri - a wonderful painter; for simplicity.

Juan Carlos Barquet said...

The Art Spirit is one of the most important books I have read. Thanks for sharing.

Carol said...

I suggest you read "Son of the Gambling Man" by Mari Sandoz. She also grew up in Nebraska with an enterprising father. This book gives a good sense of the potential violence possible in the conflicts between people.

John Fleck said...

Wow - I had no idea there existed a Henri-specific museum. Good to know!

Bug said...

I had read somewhere that Henri insisted his name be pronounced hen-rye instead of hen-ree. Now I understand why he was so insistent. It was part of his "legend", as the spies would say.

Unknown said...

Fascinating!!! Thanks -

Caroline said...

Thank you for the post! We appreciate you spreading the Henri story. Frank's name was Southrn, without the "e". I believe both sons used unique pronunciations and spellings of their names to stand out, a desire passed down from their father.

Caroline Gaudreault
Robert Henri Museum

Caroline said...

Thank you for sharing Robert Henri's story! Frank's name is spelled Southrn, without the 'e'. I believe both sons used unique pronunciations and spellings to stand out. This desire to leave their mark came from their father.

Caroline Gaudreault
Robert Henri Museum