The Girl with Red Hair
Robert (Cozad) Henri
oil on canvas
25 x 31 inches
63.5 x 79 cm
Purchase of the Spartanburg Arts & Crafts Club
about the work
On March 1, 1907, Josephine Sibley Couper and Margaret M. Law organized The Arts & Crafts Club in Spartanburg. These two talented artists had the vision and desire to "cultivate the art spirit" in our community. Their first exhibit of fine art became a reality the following month with more than 100 paintings by leading artists of the time, including Robert Henri, William Merritt Chase, Elliott Daingerfield, and Anna Heyward Taylor along with Couper and Law.
Spartanburg fell in love with The Girl with Red Hair. The Spartanburg Herald stated "There is much rejoicing in Arts and Crafts Circles over the news that Robert Henri's The Girl with Red Hair comes to Spartanburg. This was one of the talked of pictures of the Society of American Artists Exhibition in New York last season." Editorials were published and speeches were made for this painting to be kept in Spartanburg as a nucleus for a fine arts gallery.
Following the exhibition, The Arts & Crafts Club began collecting the $500 required to purchase the painting (approximately $13,000 USD in 2021). A letter from Henri stated, "that you liked my picture of The Girl with Red Hair gives me much pleasure, and I appreciate the honor that will be mine if you expect to make it the beginning of your city's art collection."
Who was the girl with red hair? She was Marjorie Organ Henri (1886-1930, an Irish-American illustrator who worked as the only female artist on the staff of the New York Journal in 1905, when this portrait of her was painted by her future husband Robert Henri. She exhibited several drawings under her own name in the famous Armory Show of 1913. She passed away of cancer in 1930, cutting short her unusual career as a female cartoonist in the early 20th century.
Other portraits of Marjorie Organ Henri by Robert Henri belong to the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
2023 Painting Restoration
In September 2023, SAM welcomed the return of Robert Henri's Girl with the Red Hair, thanks to the descendants of Nicholas Trakas, the city's first Greek resident. Nicholas Trakas made the largest contribution to the Arts and Craft's Club efforts to purchase The Girl with the Red Hair in 1907.
Fast forward to 2022, when Steve Trakas came to the museum on a whim, introduced himself and requested to see the painting. Down to the repository we went. He inquired why she was not on view and the executive director, Elizabeth Goddard, explained the need for conservation efforts and mentioned the estimate SAM received for a full restoration.
Steve Trakas spearheaded an effort to get as many Trakas family members as possible to support the cost of restoring and conserving The Girl with the Red Hair, who was Robert Henri's second wife, Marjorie Organ.
This beautiful portrait went back on view because of two wonderful characteristics of Steve Trakas: his appreciation of the historical and cultural contributions made by his generous grandfather to the City of Spartanburg, and his deep appreciation of family and keeping bonds and traditions alive well into the future. The Trakas family members who contributed to the restoration of this painting live in New York, Florida, North and South Carolina. It was a very special night at the museum, thanks to a Greek family whose love of art and history runs as deep as their love for one another.
The Girl with Red Hair is on view until 12/31/2023.
about the artist
Robert Henri (also known as Robert Cozad and Robert Henri Cozad) was a founding member of the Ashcan School in the early twentieth century. This small but powerful group of artists, many of whom took jobs as illustrators at local newspapers in Philadelphia and New York when not painting, perferred to depict the realities of everyday life as opposed to painting still life, ideal landscapes, and portraits of wealthy patrons.
Henri was an educator as much as he was a professional painter. His seminal text The Spirit of Art was widely read by art students and critics alike when first published in 1923. Henri's credo is as relevant today as it was when claimed one hundred years ago: "art for life's sake, rather than art for art's sake."