Robert Henri Museum provides a 'fascinating' summer for intern
by MALENA WARD
Published: Monday, August 22, 2011
COZAD - Caroline Gaudreault's summer as an intern at the Robert Henri Museum and Historical Walkway was probably the best thing that could have happened to her.
The site is the boyhood home of renowned artist Robert Henri
"When artists come in, they know about Robert Henri as an artist, but they didn't know what his link to Nebraska would be," Gaudreault said.
Gaudreault, who is studying history and theatre at York College, began working at the museum in May and hopes to work in a museum in central Nebraska when she graduates. This summer, she gave tours, organized events, conducted research, designed a new brochure and updated the museum's website.
She said one of the most interesting parts of the museum is the story behind it.
"It's just a fascinating story. Once you start getting in to something like this, it's just so fascinating. It's a wonderful story and a fascinating family," Gaudreault said.
Henri's Nebraska connection was concealed until 1956 when Henri was linked to Cozad - both the town and his true family name. That was 27 years after his death.
After his father shot a man, Henri, then 17, and his family changed their names. The boy who had been known in Cozad as Robert Henry Cozad or "Bob" became Robert Earle (middle name later dropped) Henri.
"It is an unknown part of his life," Gaudreault said. "No one in his lifetime really knew."
While doing research, Gaudreault noticed that most writers mention that Henri was born in Cincinnati and went to school in Pennsylvania and later Paris. But his life in Nebraska is largely left out.
People perceive Henri as a high-class artist, Gaudreault said, and the museum often opens their eyes to another side of him.
"They get to learn that he came from these humble beginnings. He spent his formative years out here on the prairie and that influenced who he became," she said. The initials "RH" and "RHC" were found in two locations within the home during renovations and are now exposed and framed for visitors to see.
The museum's largest Henri work is a copy of Diego Valesquez's painting "Queen Mariana of Austria," which is believed to be painted by Henri. Because it is a copy, the piece is unsigned.
The museum also has a display of sketches on loan through an anonymous donor, who thought more original work by Henri would be appropriate in the home's setting.
Museum Executive Director Jan Patterson said there's always something new about the museum.
"The building is just total magic. Every time you come around, there is something different happening or going on," she said.
In July, the museum got a visit from the Midwest Paranormal Investigators. Although she didn't personally sense anything during her time at the museum, Gaudreault said the investigators found it to be one of the most haunted places they've ever been too.
"It's all friendly ghosts. No bad feelings," she said. "It just adds to the mystery."
Robert Henri Museum and Historical Walkway
Address: 218 E. Eighth St, Cozad, NE
Open: Tuesday through Saturday, Memorial Day to Sept. 30 or by appointment, 308-784-4154.
Admission: Adults $3, Children $1;
Annual memberships available
History: The site is the restored boyhood home of artist Robert Henri. The building also served as a hotel. The two-story brick (later stuccoed) building was constructed in about 1879 by John J. Cozad, who founded the town bearing his name in 1873. It is where Cozad shot a local farmer, Alfred Pearson, on October 14, 1882. In 1883, the property was sold to Stephen Hendee, a grain dealer. The hotel served as a business and social center in Cozad.
The Robert Henri Story
Robert Henri, born in Cincinnati on June 25, 1865, was known by his birth name of Robert Henry Cozad when he lived in Cozad from age 8 to 17. He came to Dawson County with his parents, John Jackson and Theresa (Gatewood) Cozad, and an older brother, John Anthony "Johnny" Cozad.
His father, once a professional gambler, founded Cozad in 1873 and hurriedly left town in 1882. An argument initiated by Alfred Pearson over the right to graze cattle escalated to a fight, and Cozad shot Pearson, who died two months later.
Fearing reprisals, Cozad fled to Denver. His wife and sons stayed in Cozad to dispose of property before joining him. The family later moved to Atlantic City, N.J.
Each family member changed names to disguise their identities. The parents became Richard Henry Lee and Tessa Lee, and the boys became Frank Southrn and Robert Earle Henry, later Henri. People were told the sons were adopted from different families.
Henri studied art in 1886 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and later moved to Paris for more training.
Not just an artist, but also a teacher, Henri had tremendous influence. He taught art at the Women's School of Design in Philadelphia and later at the New York School of Art. He opened the Henri Art School in New York in 1909.
A student, Margery Ryerson, compiled Henri's notes, letters and lectures in the book "The Art Spirit." Various quotes, such as the following, are displayed on the website: "Realize that a drawing is not a copy. It is a construction in very different materials. A drawing is an invention."