Hubert Robert has come down in history as a painter of ruins and landscapes, but he was above all one of the 18th century’s greatest creators of poetic images. This aspect is at the heart of the first monographic exhibition devoted to the artist since 1933, co- organized by the Musée du Louvre and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. This retrospective illustrates the exceptional diversity and prolific curiosity of a creative and endearing artist whose skills as a painter-philosopher, landscape artist, architect, project manager, and public figure were augmented by his interest in poetry and history.
Based on the rich collections of the Louvre’s Departments of Paintings and of Prints and Drawings, the exhibition presents an exceptional and varied selection of some 140 works including drawings, paintings, sketches, engravings, monumental paintings, large decorative works, and furniture. It was made possible by generous loans from preeminent heritage collections holding works by the artist both in France and abroad, with contributions from the United States and Russia, from the Musée Carnavalet in Paris, and from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Valence which holds what is probably the world’s finest collection of drawings by Hubert Robert.
Witty and urbane with an endlessly enquiring mind, Hubert Robert was a true man of the Enlightenment. He followed a remarkable artistic path that led him from Rome in the mid-18th century to the court of France, where he produced some of the most spectacular decors in the brilliant decade that preceded the French Revolution. A chronicler of Paris and of the stormy history that rocked the late 18th century, he ended his distinguished career as a thoughtful and committed curator of the brand new Muséum Central des Arts, the future Musée du Louvre.
The work of this visionary artist was both eclectic and deeply coherent. It encompassed a broad range of genres: poetic landscapes, imaginary urban views inspired by architectural capricci, archaeological studies, remarkable and innovative designs for gardens (at Versailles and Méréville) and palatial decorations (at Bagatelle and Rambouillet, and even in Russia). In the course of his career he associated with some of the greatest creators of his time including Italian painters Pannini and Piranesi, writer and philosopher Denis Diderot, pioneering architects, and French painters Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Elisabeth Louise Vigée- LeBrun, and Jacques-Louis David.
The exhibition illustrates the remarkable scope of this prolific artist’s creativity with numerous drawings (including some beautiful red chalks from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Valence), painted sketches, engravings, architectural and archaeological capricci, monumental paintings, large decorative works (the panels of the Château de Fontainebleau, now in the Musée du Louvre…), representations of the large landscaped gardens designed by the artist, and lastly, unique furniture pieces designed by Robert for the dairy of Queen Marie Antoinette at Rambouillet.
Exhibition curator: Guillaume Faroult, Department of Paintings, Musée du Louvre.