Painted in a single day, Young Woman in White represents one of Robert Henri’s favorite professional models, the Czech-born Eugenie Stein. Henri is justly noted for the life-size, grand manner studio portraits of women, like this one, that he often sent to exhibitions to demonstrate his command of the full-length format. As its title suggests, this image is a monochromatic tonal study in the tradition of a painting that Henri greatly admired: James McNeil Whistler's
Following the favorable critical reception of his Young Woman in Black (1902, Art Institute of Chicago), Robert Henri painted a number of similar life-size, grand manner studio portraits of professional and amateur models that he submitted to exhibitions to demonstrate his command of the full-length format. Two of the most important examples of this type date from 1904: Lady in Black (The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York), a portrait of his first wife, and Young Woman in White, a portrait of the Czech-born professional artist’s model Eugenie Stein. Henri may have been encouraged to pursue these types of studio portraits when his Girl in White Waist (1901, destroyed) was purchased in January 1904 by the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, thus becoming his first painting to enter an American museum’s permanent collection.
Known as "Zenka” or “Efzenka," Eugenie Stein was an immigrant, working class woman. She knew Dolly Sloan, the wife of Henri’s friend and artistic comrade, the painter John Sloan, who called her "a great girl, so ingenious, so paintable, the best professional model in New York probably, though my own experience is small."
John Sloan, diary entry of January 18, 1908, quoted in John Sloan's New York Scene: From the Diaries, Notes and Correspondence, 1906–1913, ed. Bruce St. John (New York, 1965), 185–186, cited by Rowland Elzea, John Sloan's Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné (Newark, DE, 1991), 1:65; see also Van Wyck Brook, John Sloan: A Painter's Life (New York, 1955), 187. For a portrait of Stein that Sloan painted sometime in 1904 or 1905 (location unknown), see Elzea, John Sloan’s Oil Paintings, 1: no. 60, 65. Two of Sloan's best-known portraits of Eugenie are Stein at Window, Sixth Avenue (1918, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond) and Efzenka the Czech (1918, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC); see Elzea, John Sloan's Oil Paintings, vol. 1, nos. 583 and 584, 228.
John Sloan, Gist of Art (New York, 1939), 257.
Executed in a single day, Henri recorded the essential details of Stein’s clothing in Young Woman in White in his record book: "Yellow scarf, straw hat with white lace and black lace. White gloves half on."
Artist’s Record Book, Estate of Robert Henri, LeClair Family Collection.
Bennard B. Perlman, The Immortal Eight: American Painting from Eakins to the Armory Show (New York, 1962), repr. ed. as Painters of the Ashcan School: The Immortal Eight (New York, 1988), 125, considered this characteristic treatment of the background to be "the truly distinctive feature in Henri's art."
"The Teachings of Robert Henri: The Alice Klauber Manuscript," quoted in Bennard B. Perlman, Robert Henri: His Life and Art (New York, 1991), 146.
Henri ultimately did not intend his full-length portraits to be simple, literal likenesses of specific individuals. Instead, he used them to capture abstract qualities that he described as "another dimension—that fascinating fourth if you like—which has to do with your concept of the significance of the whole—that ultra something which always engages your interest more than mere facts of the person standing before you."
Robert Henri, The Art Spirit, comp. Margery Ryerson (New York, 1923), 109–110.
Robert Henri, The Art Spirit, comp. Margery Ryerson (New York, 1923), 266.
The painting occupies a unique place along the spectrum between aestheticism and realism. Henri’s adherence to realism in Young Woman in White clearly distinguishes it from the conventional narrow-waisted and youthful ideals of feminine beauty that often appeared in the formal exhibition portraits by his academically oriented contemporaries John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase.
Valerie Ann Leeds, My People: The Portraits of Robert Henri (Orlando, FL, 1994), 20, has identified a group of similarly titled full-length portraits of women that Chase painted during the 1880s and 1890s as the precedent for this type of portrait.
Dorothy Grafly, “Robert Henri,” American Magazine of Art 22 (June 1931): 441. For a discussion of another of Henri’s full-length portraits of Stein, see Carol Lowery, A Legacy of Art: Paintings and Sculptures by Artist Members of the National Arts Club (New York, 2007), 116–119.
August 17, 2018
lower left: Robert Henri; upper left reverse: 19 / C; on both left and right tacking margins: STEIN PROFILE
The artist [1865-1929]; by inheritance to his wife, Marjorie Organ Henri [1886-1930], New York; the Henri estate; Marjorie's sister and the artist's sister-in-law, Violet Organ [d. 1959], New York, by 1937; gift 1949 to NGA.
- An Exhibition of Portraits, The Union League Club, New York, 1904, no. 16, as Woman in White.
- Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Robert Henri, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March-April 1931, no. 23, repro., as Young Woman in White--Profile.
- Robert Henri Memorial Exhibition, Baltimore Museum of Art, May 1931, no. 16, repro.
- Entering the Twentieth Century: Oils, Watercolors, Drawings, Springfield Art Museum, Massachusetts; Howard Young Galleries, New York, October 1932, no. 24.
- Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Robert Henri, Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey, January 1932, no catalogue.
- Memorial Exhibition, Philadelphia Art Alliance, 1933. [According to the Artist's Record Book, added after his death]
- Carson-Pirie-Scott Galleries, Chicago, 1936. [According to the Artist's Record Book, added after his death]
- New York Realists 1900-1914, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1937, no. 30, repro., as Young Woman in White--Profile.
- Robert Henri Today, Fifth Avenue Galleries of Grand Central Art Galleries, Inc., New York, 1939, no. 3.
- Survey of American Painting, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1940, no. 217, as Young Woman in White--Profile.
- American Painting from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Tate Gallery, London, 1946, no. 102.
- The 75th Anniversary Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by 75 Artists Associated with the Art Students League of New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1951, no. 21, repro.
- The One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1955, no. 106, repro.
- Robert Henri 1865-1929-1965: An exhibition held in observance of the centennial of the artist's birth, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1965, no. 25.
- Robert Henri: Painter-Teacher-Prophet, New York Cultural Center, 1969, addenda no. 1, repro.
- Japanese Artists Who Studied in U.S.A. and The American Scene, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, 1982, no. 63, repro.
- Robert Henri, Painter, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Pennsylvania State Univ. Museum of Art, University Park; Cincinnati Art Museum; Phoenix Art Museum; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1984-1985, no. 44, repro.
- Read, Helen Appleton. Robert Henri. American Artist Series, Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, 1931: 44-45, repro.
- "The Art Market," Parnassus 4, no. 5 (October 1932): 13, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 328, repro.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 66, repro.
- Scott, David W. John Sloan. New York, 1975: 33-34, repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 175, repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: no. 48, color repro.
- Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: repro. 198, 201, 202.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 561, no. 854, color repro.
- Homer, William Innes. Robert Henri and His Circle. Ithaca, 1969; rev. ed, New York, 1988: 238, fig. 52.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 154, no. 54, color repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 199, repro.
- Leeds, Valerie Ann. My People: The Portraits of Robert Henri. Exh. cat. Orlando Museum of Art; Museum of Art, Ft. Lauderdale; Columbus Museum, GA, 1994-1995. Orlando and Seattle, 1994: 21, fig. 2.
- Weinberg, H. Barbara, Doreen Bolger, and David Park Curry. American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; Denver Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art. New York, 1994: 265.
- Perlman, Bennard B., ed. Revolutionaries of Realism: The Letters of John Sloan and Robert Henri. Princeton, 1997: ix, fig. 39.