Figure in Motion
Robert Henri
Figure in Motion

Gallery N
American Paintings and Sculpture

Gallery N, near the entrance to the Armory, featured one of the most striking images of the show, Robert Henri's Figure in Motion (left). As William Zorach wrote for the 50th Anniversary exhibition: "I remember in all this wildness—a life-sized standing nude by Henri that was the most realistic and nudist nude I ever saw" (Munson-Williams-Proctor 94). Henri's nude provides an uncanny contrast to Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. Like Degas, Henri had long studied the movements of dancers and was a known admirer of Isadora Duncan. Both Duchamp and Henri drew from photographic studies of motion that appeared around the turn of the century. Henri's work is reminiscent of the still caption model of Eadweard Muybridge's sequential Animal Locomotion photographs, initially published in 1891, and Duchamp's recalls Etienne-Jules Marey's simultaneous chronophotography.

Guy Pene Du Bois' depiction of Henri's disappointment after the Armory show posits him as a revolutionary hero who had been usurped by a new regime: "A pioneer himself in America, he was now confronted with a troupe of adventurers who made his little exploration seem not much more adventurous than a slumming trip taken by a society matron from a Fifth Avenue mansion to an East Side tenement" (Du Bois 91). Henri was not unfamiliar with or indifferent to the work of European modernists. As part of his pedagogy at the Art Student's League and the Ferrer School, Henri exposed his students to Manet, Degas, van Gogh, Gauguin, Whistler, Cézanne, and Renoir through reproductions of their work. Even before the Armory Show he also praised the paintings of Matisse. Andrew Dasburg recalled that he frequently commented on Picasso and Braque as well as Matisse in his classes. Henri supported American modernists, despite, or perhaps because of, his firm belief in supporting the development of art in America. In 1912, Henri became a champion of the art of Max Weber. He urged his pupils to study Weber's work on view in the Murray Hill Galleries (Homer, Henri 174). When Henri visited Paris in the fall of 1912, he visited Gertrude Stein's studio and the Salon d'Automne. Henri was, according to Pach, "taken aback by the Cubist work," but he reportedly preferred the Cubists to more conservative work in the exhibition (Perlman, Henri 105). During the same trip, he copied Cézanne's palette and commented: "The sense of the original is powerful, it all works, everywhere it is sensible of its own strength, its living existence" (Perlman, Henri 105).

Whether or not Henri's Nude was painted with Duchamp's in mind, his dissatisfaction with the Armory Show was probably more for art-political reasons rather than artistic ones. Though Alfred Stieglitz accused Henri, along with others, of teaching students to imitate his style, Henri repeatedly insisted, "don't paint like me" (Homer, Henri 163). According to William Innes Homer, "Except for Stieglitz, . . . there was no one besides Henri to foster an understanding of these new currents in European painting" (Homer, Henri 164). Henri's first class of students at the Henri School of Art, opened in 1909, included Andrew Dasburg, Morgan Russell, Stuart Davis, and Patrick Henry Bruce, all of whom exhibited in the Armory Show. After he was forced to close his own school, Henri taught at the Ferrer School, financed by anarchist Emma Goldman, where Samuel Halpert and Man Ray were some of his first pupils. Man Ray recalled, "I found his ideas more stimulating than any direct criticism" (Perlman, Henri 104).


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