Robert Henri (1865–1929), painter and teacher, left a legacy of adventurous individualism. His women students carefully heeded his prescient and courageous advice to interpret the experiences of their personal lives in a national and characteristically American art. After studying with Henri, these women scattered away from his Philadelphia and New York City art schools to experiment. They filled canvases, sculpted clay, wove textiles, etched, printed, built furniture, and made photographs. They carved frames for their work, set tiles into haunting imagery, and designed sets and costumes, all the while grappling with the early-twentieth-century limitations placed on women. Through a series of seven essays and expansive illustrations, American Women Modernists illuminates the social and artistic challenges these pioneering women faced in a male-dominated art world and explains how the artists influenced modernism’s evolution.
Painting their experiences in the West—in California, Utah, and Washington, for example—Henrietta Shore, Minerva Teichert, and Helen Loggie typified artists whose distinctive work honored Henri’s philosophy. Henrietta Shore’s stylized subjects—large cactuses and succulents filling a canvas, farm workers whose rhythmic picking appears animated—documented a colorful and vibrant West. Henri’s prophetic advice to Minerva Teichert to paint her “‘birthright’—the story of her Mormon west” resulted in a treasured record revering the West’s strength and wildness. Helen Loggie etched her connection to the natural world in northwestern Washington in such detail that Henri’s influence, as with so many of the artists represented here, sings in her renderings.