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The Racial and Gendered Messages in Henry Robert's Paintings - Essay Example

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The essay explores The racial and gendered messages in Henry Robert’s Paintings. Over the course of Robert Henri's career he produced more than 200 portraits of ethnic and racial minorities in the United States and Europe, producing a catalogue of racial types…
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The Racial and Gendered Messages in Henry Robert's Paintings

Download file to see previous pages... The paper "The Racial and Gendered Messages in Henry Robert's Paintings" will discuss a few of his portraits both in the context of his writings about race and also in terms of the racialised critical responses these works received. Within this narrative two major issues arise in terms of Henri's portrait production. This is not to say that Henri never painted images of non-white youthful men. There are a few, particularly before 1905 when he painted his friends and relatives. But after 1906 these portraits are rare and when looking at his portraits en masse it becomes apparent that he was not interested in non-white men of his own age.These images of non-white children and women in a study of white masculinity, communicate how Henri framed both whiteness and manhood. Race and gender exist in dialectics, black informing the construction of white, female instructing male, and vice versa. I think it was not a coincidence that Henri painted so few portraits of white men, and instead focused his attentions on racial and ethnic minorities. The white man, for Henri, could not be represented, for as he wrote, something had been lost in "the race"- white manhood was unstable, faltering. What he could paint instead was the boundaries of whiteness and the boundaries of manliness. As such, his portraits of non-white sitters become instructive, notifying the viewer of the distinctions between races and between genders. These numerous portraits then become a sort of reverse self-portrait.; Henri looked into each of his sitter's eyes and saw what he was not. This interpretation of the way Henri's portraits functioned is then reflected in the contemporary criticism that the portraits received. As stated before, these works were some of the most successful of Henri's career and indeed resuscitated his reputation after the eclipse of modernism and the Armory Show. Critics were for the most part enthusiastic about his portraits, but beyond that their comments reveal that the racial and gendered messages he encoded in the paintings were not lost on the audience. His paintings of African Americans, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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