I’ve been preparing to lead a session on Street Art at our village art group (a very low-key affair!) Reading about a pioneer of Street Art in the 1980s called Keith Haring (USA) , I discovered that Haring had left art school to follow his own artistic path after reading The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.
Henri (1865 – 1929) was an American painter and teacher who first introduced the work of Manet, Degas, Goya and other European greats to the USA. Henri was an inspired teacher with an extraordinary gift for verbal communication. Amongst his students Henri had almost a cult following.
I bought the book!
The Art Spirit records Henri’s lecture notes (mainly on painting) as well as his views on Art in a broader sense, and what it means to be an artist. It is full of wisdom.
Now I think I get it. Being Authentic is not about the final product but the joy in the process of making.
Henri: The best art the world has ever had is but the impress left by men who have thought less of making great art than of living full and completely with all their faculties in the enjoyment of full play.
When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people… He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding. The world would stagnate without him, and the world would be beautiful with him; for he is interesting to himself and he is interesting to others. He does not have to be a painter or sculptor to be an artist. He can work in any medium. He simply has to find the gain in the work itself, not outside it.
(By ‘outside it‘, I understand that to mean external gain: sales, exhibitions, esteem by others etc.)
Museums of art will not make a country an art country. But where there is the art spirit there will be precious works to fill museums. Better still there will be the happiness that is in the making.
How has this affected me personally? I feel liberated! I can stop worrying about trying to think of a fantastic new idea or create something amazing (like a nest!) I can enjoy making what I make. I feel excited about the new commission and am enjoying the process again.