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  • ardothrutherford

Why "The Art Spirit"?

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

The Art Spirit studio takes its name from the title of a book which was very inspiring to me when I studied art at university, and which has inspired and challenged thousands of artists and students throughout the decades since its publication nearly a hundred years ago.

Robert Henri, who was born outside Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1865, was a great American artist, but more importantly Henri is considered to be one of the greatest art teachers of all time. He is considered thus because he was so inspirational to his students and to all who have since read and studied his collected notes. The Art Spirit is that collection of his teachings, letters, speeches, notes, and overheard comments recorded by his students. These various musings were gathered and published in 1923 by Margery Ryerson, one of his former pupils.

Henri’s ideas on the importance of art were formed when he studied the great masters of Art in France as a young man. He also was a great reader of writers and thinkers from Emerson to Tolstoy. When he returned to the United States and became a teacher in Philadelphia and later New York, he would share everything he had read and learned with his students with great enthusiasm. Generally he did not lecture directly to his students while they were working, but he would come back to the classroom at night, study their works, and leave them notes to encourage them and give direction to their work. These meaningful notes, not just about the artworks but also bits of philosophy and wisdom, were treasured by his students and later became the basis for this book.

However, the book is not just about art for artists. It’s a book for art appreciators too, and for anyone who wants to find beauty in life and to be rejuvenated and inspired. It is not a “how to” book, but a book about being creative and learning to see and value the beauty around us every day. It is a book about how to live a life that appreciates both art and being alive in one’s senses.

Henri believed “everyone is vitally concerned in the happiness and wisdom to be found through the Arts.” He found no division between art and life. He believed we should find the things, people, or ways of living that would inspire us to be creative and surround ourselves with these.

“Art and Life!” was his great rallying cry for his students, so the book is as much about life as it is about Art.

The Art Spirit is not necessarily a book that must be read straight through, but a book you can also keep by a bed or chair side to pick up and browse through over and over again for a few minutes or a few hours. Or keep a copy in your car for those times when you’re “on hold” in traffic or in a waiting room. One suggestion for reading it is to replace “art” with “what I love to do” and watch your appreciation for so many things grow as you dip into the book again and again. It is an inspiration to live life appreciating the non-material things in life, to do a thing well, no matter what that thing might be, to live life to the fullest.

Our goal here at The Art Spirit is to provide an opportunity for anyone who is interested in beginning his or her own journey toward greater creativity through art or to provide support and encouragement to other artists who are already engaged in the practice of their art.

We believe that there is an Art Spirit within each one of us that just needs the opportunity to express itself.

Or as Henri himself said,

"Art is the province of every human being; it is not a single, separate thing.”

"There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge." Robert Henri

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