Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Landing Place, 1788, oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Richard T. Crane.
Washington, DC—Celebrated for the fundamental role he played in promoting the architectural capriccio, Hubert Robert combined famous monuments of antiquity and modernity in unexpected ways to create strikingly new and imaginative city scenes and landscapes. On view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from June 26 through October 2, 2016, Hubert Robert, 1733–1808 is the first monographic exhibition in the United States on the artist as well as the first exhibition to survey his achievements as both a painter and a draftsman.
More than 100 paintings and works on paper showcase his talents: he was a masterly landscape painter, a gifted and prolific draftsman, an engaging printmaker, and an acute chronicler of some of the major events of the day. The recipient of important royal and aristocratic commissions, including many from Russia, Robert was also the first Keeper of Paintings at the Musée du Louvre.
Dubbed "Robert des ruines" by the great critic and encyclopedist Denis Diderot, Robert was renowned during his era as one of France's most prominent artists.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Architectural Capriccio with the Port of Ripetta and the Pantheon, 1760, pen and ink with wash and watercolor over chalk on paper that appears to be partially prepared. Collection of Jean Bonna, Geneva. photographer Patrick Goetelen, Geneva
"Because of Robert's longevity and enormous public popularity, he is mentioned in all standard reference texts on the 18th century. However, no catalogue raisonné of either his paintings or his drawings has been written. Robert's overall production was far richer and more varied than has generally been recognized on this side of the Atlantic and we are delighted that this project will bring new recognition to an artist whose importance in his own time was considerable and whose artistic range and accomplishments deserve to be better known," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art.
Prior to this exhibition, the last monographic exhibition on Hubert Robert in France was in 1933 on the 200th anniversary of his birth.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), A Hermit Praying in the Ruins of a Roman Temple, c. 1760, oil on canvas. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris, where it was on view from March 9 through May 30, 2016.
The exhibition is made possible through the leadership support of the Leonard and Elaine Silverstein Family Foundation. Additional funding is provided by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Architectural Fantasy with a Triumphal Bridge, c. 1760, chalk. National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Armand Hammer Collection, 1987.
Hubert Robert, 1733–1808 is installed in chronological sections that correspond to key periods in his life: Robert's 11 years in Rome; his official successes and major commissions after his return to Paris in 1765, including his work as a garden designer; new themes inspired by his personal experience of Paris, including scenes of urban construction and destruction; the French Revolution and his own imprisonment; and his post-revolutionary involvement with the creation of the new museum of art in the Louvre.
Hubert Robert was one of the 18th century's most successful artists, and his career is paradigmatic of the pleasures and vicissitudes of his era. Born in Paris, he studied painting in Italy (1754–1765) as a protégé of the duc de Choiseul, who helped him obtain a special entrée to the French Academy in Rome, normally reserved only for winners of the prestigious Prix de Rome. There, Robert refined his artistic practice through direct study of Rome's architectural wonders, parks, and gardens. The content and style of his Roman output largely reflect an emulation of contemporary artistic models and peers (Piranesi and Panini), but Robert also perfected works for which he is best known: depictions of ruins and monuments in which the past and present mingle in striking and unexpected ways.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Water Theater of the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, 1762, pen and ink with wash and watercolor and touches of white gouache, over graphite on two joined sheets. Albertina, Vienna.
Upon his return to Paris—where his scenes of ruins shown in the Salons inspired Diderot's lavish praise—Robert established himself as one of the most sought after artists of his day, producing large-scale painted decors and designing garden landscapes and decorative objects for the royal family and its entourage. Robert also enjoyed access to prominent intellectual and artistic circles: he was a close friend of the painter Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun and a favorite of Madame Geoffrin—one of the leading female intellectuals of the French Enlightenment.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Archaeologists at the Temple of Vespasian, 1762, chalk. Private collection.
His work later addresses the demise of this glittering and decadent society, first in ominous scenes of conflagration and disaster of the late 1780s, then in accurate, unblinking representations of vandalism of royalist monuments and his own imprisonment during the Revolution. Upon his release, Robert spent the rest of his life reworking his favorite theme—the conflation of contemporary life and the distant past—through a series of meditative variations on the Grande Galerie of the new Musée du Louvre, where he served as curator until his death in 1808.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Oval Fountain in the Gardens of the Villa d’Este, Tivoli, c. 1763, chalk over graphite. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Neil Phillips and Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Phillips, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1990.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Fountain in a Park, 1763/1765, chalk. The Art Institute of Chicago, Restricted gift of Margaret Day Blake.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Discoverers of Antiquities, c. 1765, oil on canvas. Musée de Valence, Art et Archéologie. © Musée de Valence, photo: Musée de Valence
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Pantheon with the Port of Ripetta, 1766, oil on canvas. École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, on deposit from the Département des Peintures du Musée du Louvre. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Architectural Capriccio with Ancient Monuments, 1766/1767, two shades of red chalk. Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques, Paris. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Stair and Fountain in the Park of a Roman Villa, c. 1770, oil on canvas. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of the Ahmanson Foundation.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), An Ancient Circular Temple in a Wooded Landscape, c. 1770, chalk. Private collection, U. K.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Ponte Salario, c. 1775, oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1952.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), View of the Tapis Vert at Versailles, 1777, oil on canvas. Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Studio of an Antiquities Restorer in Rome, c. 1783, oil on canvas. Lent by the Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), The Monuments of Paris, 1788, oil on canvas. Collection Power Corporation of Canada, Montreal.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Landscape with Arcadian Shepherds, 1789, oil on canvas. Musée de Valence, Art et Archéologie. © Musée de Valence, photo Éric Caillet
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), An Inmate of Saint-Lazare Prison, 1794, pen and ink and watercolor. Collection Andrea Woodner.
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), View of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre in Ruins, 1796, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Département des Peintures, Paris. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY
Hubert Robert (1733–1808), Demolition of the Château de Meudon, 1806, oil on canvas. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds realized from the sale of paintings donated by Peter and Iselin Moller, Dr. Walter S. Udin, and Howard Young.