Book Review – The Art Spirit

14 Mar

March Book Club – The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.


The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

Robert Henri was born in Cincinnati in 1865 and died in 1929. He led the Ashcan School movement in art, and attracted a large, intensely personal group of followers. His paintings are shown at major museums across the United States.


This book came highly recommended and the reviews of the book make it seem like a ‘must-read’ book for artists. It is still used in art classrooms today despite being a nearly 100-year old book.

To be honest, I didn’t finish reading it. I struggled with it. I kept thinking I would finish it, but I haven’t, thus the delay between the book club date and this post. Sometimes we really just can’t get through a particular book and that is OK.

There were parts that were interesting and useful, but a lot of it was boring to me. I felt that the book was a bit disjointed to follow. I know that it is letters and notes and lectures, but it jumps around a lot and is definitely not linear. And I kept wishing I had the student work (or the author work) in front of me to look at when he was discussing the various aspects of art. That would have been helpful.

On the other hand, there are a lot of great quotes and insights about art and the art spirit. Robert Henri was quite emphatic that you needed to be skilled and educated about what you were doing, but that you also needed love and passion and interest in what you were doing. Art wasn’t just technique (although that was important) but it was a part of who you were. If you didn’t have that passion, your art wouldn’t be as good. He believed that you needed to ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ what you were painting. I like that idea.

There are a lot of comments about life in general as well as art. It is important to remember that they are linked and we need art to truly experience life.

There are also lots of comments about tools and techniques and information about color and shadow and perspective. There is also a lot of information about using live models and how to paint from models vs. painting from memory. All of which is good to know if you are painting in that manner.

For me, I think just reading a bit of it now and then would be easier to do and would probably be more enjoyable. It is certainly a book where you don’t need to read it in order from front to back. You really can just pick it up and open it and read a chapter or two and gather some insight and put it back down again.

I usually love these types of books, so perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Did you read it? What did you think of it? What was the most interesting part of the book for you? Leave your comments below.

Our book for March is “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon. We read his book  “Steal Like An Artist” a while back and it was quite fun and easy to read and provoked lots of discussion. I expect this book to be similar. Our March book club is March 27th at 1pm if you can join us.



Let Your Inner Artist Out To Play

Blue Twig Studio – 5039 N Academy Blvd – Colorado Springs, CO 80918




4 Responses to “Book Review – The Art Spirit”

  1. Susan March 16, 2015 at 7:55 am #

    I struggled with the book as well. I couldn’t get into it. For all the reasons you mentioned in your post. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one!


    • Deb Prewitt March 16, 2015 at 8:20 am #

      It is always challenging to say you don’t really like a book that comes with so many glowing recommendations. I hesitated saying that I had a hard time with it. So I’m glad you said you struggled too. 🙂 Next month’s book will be more fun.


  2. lynnk50 March 17, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    I struggled with this book, too. I did find some points I really enjoyed and noted these in my review of this book in my blog post. Mostly, I found the book very disjointed – like talking with someone who has ADD ( of which I have much experience! Lol!).
    Glad we’re doing an easier, more fun book for March!


    • Deb Prewitt March 17, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

      The reviews are awesome and it is a book still used in classrooms, but I really didn’t enjoy it. But like you, I did think there were some good parts and some great quotes, but to sit and read the entire book was difficult for me.


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