Nebraska Authors

Robert Henri

AKA: Robert Henry Cozad

Last name pronounced HEN-rye.

Born 1865 Cincinnati, OH (USA)

In Nebraska 1873 - 1882.

Died 1929

Any short list of America's greatest artists will include Henri. This note is only about his Nebraska connections.

Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad, son of John J. Cozad, a land speculator and gambler who brought his family to Nebraska in 1873 and established the town of Cozad, Nebraska. In 1882 the father shot and killed a local rancher when a land dispute turned violent. The family had to flee Nebraska and all of them changed their last names, so Robert Henry Cozad chose to become Robert Henri. His brother and parents chose different surnames and henceforth Robert pretended to be his father's adopted son. Mari Sandoz wrote a novel about Robert Henri's Nebraska childhood, Son of a Gamblin' Man (1960).

Henri was an influential teacher at the Art Students League of New York 1915-1927. Among his many important students was fellow Nebraskan Dwight Kirsch, whose long career as an artist and teacher at the University of Nebraska and in the Nebraska Art Association brought a more sophisticated understanding of art back to Nebraska.

Henri's main literary legacy is his 1923 book, The Art Spirit, an anarchic but fascinating compilation of his musings, philosophical observations and criticism. The book was first compiled by his Art Students League student Margery Ryerson, who originally organized it in chapters, but Henri undid that organization and added even more materials. In 2017, the book was recognized with the Nebraska 150 Books honor.

MONA has a collection of works by Henri and a offers a biography page.


Places Lived

Cozad, NE
Atlantic City, NJ
New York City
Paris, France
US Southwest

Author Of

  • Visual Work




Academy of Fine Arts, 1891, Philadelphia, PA




Nebraska 150 Books honor for The Art Spirit, 2017
“150 Notable Nebraskans”, Number 36 on the Journal Star Sesquicentennial List of Significant Nebraskans
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery 1994 Exhibition: ROBERT HENRI - Nebraska's Favorite Son


Association with a group of artists known as The Eight, which included: John Sloan and William Glackens
Friendship and patronship wih Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art)
Greenwich Village scene


The Art Spirit. 1923 and 1930.

Short articles in several journals including Craftsman and Arts and Decoration

See also:
Mari Sandoz, Son of a Gamblin' Man. 1960.
Robert Henri, 1865-1929-1965, 1965, (Sheldon Exhibition Catalogue in Observance of the Artist's Centennial Birthday)
Robert Henri and His Circle. 1969.
The American West: The Modern Vision. 1984.
Robert Henri Museum and Historical Walkway. 1985.

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Robert Henri

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