Catherine (inscribed On Back Of Painting "Catharine")

Robert Henri

American, 1865 - 1929

Catherine (inscribed on back of painting "Catharine"), 1924

  • On View

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 24 1/2 × 20 3/8 in. (62.2 × 51.8 cm)
Framed: 32 × 27 1/2 in. (81.3 × 69.9 cm)

Gift of James W. Sibley in memory of Harriet Cumings Sibley, 1984.7

As of 2013, the subject of this portrait Catherine (spelled “Catharine” by the artist on the back of the canvas) O’Malley of Achill Island, Ireland (b. 1910) was still alive at age 103—one of the last two remaining models from a series of portraits done of Irish children by artist Robert Henri in the early 20th century. The time that Henri spent in Ireland was very valuable to him (it was the only other place besides New York where he purchased a residence) because he was able to focus on his painting without distractions. He noted a special vitality in Irish children and expressed the “hope that some of this emotion will find its way into what I tell of Achill folk in my portraits.”Born in Cincinnati, Henri studied art in Philadelphia and Paris, and taught at numerous art schools in New York. He was active in organizing the famed exhibition of The Eight in 1908, the 1910 Exhibition of Independent Artists, and the MacDowell Club exhibitions. Henri's late career was devoted to painting children. He had a continuing fascination with and respect for his youthful subjects, seeing in them an optimism, simplicity, and wisdom that he conveyed in this portrait. He once remarked, “If you paint children, you must have no patronizing attitude toward them. Whoever approaches a child without humility, without wonderment and without infinite respect, misses what is before him.”

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