Robert Henri’s El Tango, painted in 1908, is a stunning portrait that represents the artist’s realist style. Henri was known for his democratic approach to portraiture and often chose sitters from diverse racial and social groups. In this painting, he depicts a lady dressed in formal wear and gown with an uncommon hairstyle that reflects the fashion design of the time.
The portrait displays the lady immersed in tango dancing. Her partner is not portrayed in the painting but inferred through her body posture and pose, which show her movement with a skillful partner. The depiction of Tango dance aligns with Henri’s innovative approach to art by capturing life as it was happening at that time.
Currently held by the San Antonio Museum of Art, El Tango showcases Henri’s proficiency as an artist while giving us insight into one of his chosen subjects during his artistic pursuits throughout America. The painting highlights how important social events influenced fashion design in early 20th-century America. Robert Henri continues to inspire modern artists seeking candid portrayal of people from various backgrounds whose stories showcase diverse American cultures- these remains relevant today just as they were over a hundred years ago when he painted El Tango.