Great master of the urban landscape who narrowly escaped death during the years of revolutionary terror
Hubert Robert (May 22, 1733 April 15, 1808) is a famous French painter of the 18th century, an outstanding master of landscape and capriccio. Hubert Robert also became famous in the field of landscape and architectural design, he designed several unique gardens and parks for the royal family and influential nobles of France. The artist’s paintings still amaze viewers with the beauty of ancient ruins, his work was highly appreciated by colleagues, critics and the sophisticated audience. There are many interesting facts and remarkable events in the master’s biography.
Hubert Robert was also the first curator of the most famous museum in France the Louvre and put a lot of effort into its creation and development. The artist left to descendants about 1000 paintings and more than 10,000 original drawings.
Biography of Hubert Robert
Hubert Robert was born on May 22, 1733 in Paris in the family of a high-ranking official François-Joseph de Choiseul, the manager of the ambassador of Lorraine in France, Marquis de Stainville. Parents (Nicolas and Jeanne Roberts) paid great attention to raising their son, teaching the boy Latin and Greek from an early age.
In 1745-51 Hubert studied at the prestigious Parisian Jesuit College, after which he was an apprentice for 3 years with the sculptor Michel-Ange Slodtz. An experienced mentor taught the young man the basics of his craft, but seeing in him a talent for painting, he advised him to continue to engage in this type of fine art.
In 1754, the son of Nicolas Robert’s patron, Étienne François de Choiseul, was appointed French ambassador to Italy and invited the young Hubert to go with him. In Rome, thanks to the patronage of a diplomat, the talented artist received a pension from the Paris Academy of Arts for 5 years and worked in the workshop of Giovanni Paolo Pannini.
At the same time, Hubert Robert met Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and a little later with Jean-Honoré Fragonard, with whom he maintained friendly relations for the rest of his life. In 1759, the French Academy of Arts stopped paying the young author a pension, but he decided to stay in Italy for another 6 years, making a living by painting cityscapes.
Returning to Paris in 1765, Hubert Robert already had a reputation as a fashionable European painter. Therefore, immediately after the first presentation of his works at the annual salon, he became a full member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Then Robert was appointed designer of the royal gardens and for many years, in addition to painting, he was engaged in the design of palaces and parks in Paris and its environs.
In 1778, Louis XVI decided to open an art museum in the former royal palace and it was Hubert Robert who became the first curator of the Louvre. But before the opening of the permanent exhibition, it was necessary to make a large-scale redevelopment of the building, and the treasury did not find money for these needs. Therefore, Robert had to spend the next 11 years maintaining the extensive royal collection of works of art in good condition, combining this work with the career of an artist.
The Great French Revolution marked not only the fall of the monarchy
But also the end of the carefree life of the famous painter. In October 1793, the Revolutionary Oversight Committee declared Robert a suspicious person, and by the decision of this body, the artist was sent to prison. For almost 10 months, Hubert awaited the death sentence in prison, but after the execution of Robespierre (Maximilien Robespierre) he was acquitted and released.
The 60-year-old painter returned to his duties as curator of the Louvre, 6 months after the official opening of the famous museum took place in February 1794. But being in prison undermined the health of the master, and after 8 years he resigned.
Until 1798, Hubert Robert took part in the Paris salons every year, and his work was constantly popular with the public. Until the end of his days, the artist continued to paint and develop projects for the redevelopment of the Louvre. But on April 15, 1808, he died suddenly of a massive stroke at the age of 75. He was buried in the Parisian cemetery of Otoy, where only a memorial plaque with the artist’s name has survived.
The most famous paintings by Hubert Robert
The great French artist has created many wonderful masterpieces over a long creative career. And yet, some of the most famous paintings by Hubert Robert include:
- “Ancient Ruins” (1754-1765) one of the best works of the master, created during his 11-year stay in Rome. Against the background of destroyed ancient architectural monuments, the artist skillfully portrayed ordinary people his contemporaries, busy with everyday affairs.
- “The main monuments of France” (1786) a cycle of 4 large-scale works with images of ancient ruins of the Roman era. The artist painted paintings to decorate the interior of the royal castle in Fontainebleau, but they were never installed in the planned location.
- “The Imaginary View of the Grand Gallery of the Louvre in Ruins” (1796) is a masterpiece in which the painter tried to present to the audience the building of the famous Parisian museum destroyed by time or by a global cataclysm. The idea of creating a work arose in the master’s head after the catastrophic events of the Great French Revolution, which brought great misfortune to people.
- “The project of the great gallery of the Louvre” (1796) is a visual display of the grandiose plan of the great artist to transform the old royal palace into a wonderful museum. In this picture, Robert managed to show the audience how beautiful a huge building filled with the greatest masterpieces of fine art from different eras can become.
Hubert Robert is rightfully considered one of the iconic masters of the 18th century urban landscape. And his best works are today in many museums around the world, including the Parisian Louvre and the St. Petersburg Hermitage.