b. Malvern, AR, 1907–d. Malvern, AR, 1992
Natalie Henry was born in Malvern, Arkansas, the eldest of five children of Samuel Ewell Henry, circuit clerk and Hot Spring County judge, and homemaker Natalie Smith. Her mother died when she was 12, and Henry channeled her grief into creative activity. At age 15, she enrolled in a correspondence course in art. From 1925–26, she attended Galloway College in Searcy, one of Arkansas’s largest and most prestigious women’s colleges.
After moving to Chicago in 1928, she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where she studied painting and drawing from September 1929 to December 1932. Henry achieved the equivalent of a four-year art degree in 1937 by attending the Hubert Ropp School of Art in Chicago on a part-time basis. An astute businesswoman, Henry exchanged recordkeeping for Ropp for tuition and worked part-time as a typist from 1931–42 at the Art Institute’s Ryerson Library. She was manager of the SAIC store for 23 years, guiding students in purchasing supplies.
Henry lived in the Tree Studios Building, Chicago, sharing an apartment with Rowena Fry for many years. Her watercolor of Rowena Washing Her Hair shows an intimate scene and exemplifies the realistic style she deployed so well in her many cityscapes. She worked on Federal Art Project of the Works Project Administration, executing murals for private clients. She was commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department to paint a mural for the post office in Springdale, Arkansas in 1939.
Henry exhibited in many Art Institute annual exhibitions, as well as with the Chicago Society of Artists, the Chicago Women's Salon, and the Renaissance Society. Her works are held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, and in numerous private collections.
She retired to Malvern in 1985 and died there in 1992.
Faist, Barton, Barbara Koenen, and Tim Samuelson. Capturing Sunlight: The Art of Tree Studios. Chicago: Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, 1999.
Illinois Women Artists Project,
Natalie Smith Henry (1907–1992). The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=3441.
Yochim, Louise Dunn. Role and Impact: The Chicago Society of Artists, pp. 244–45. Chicago: Chicago Society of Artists, 1979.
Artist image: Natalie Henry, Self-Portrait, 1930s; watercolor on paper; 14 x 11 in. Collection of Bernard Friedman.