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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hubert Robert leaves the National Gallery of Art i

Hubert Robert, Young Girls Dancing Around an Obelisk, 1798, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The year of the painting is the year Napoleon took his army to Egypt whose monuments and pyramids drew Robert's admiration and fascination. 
Hubert Robert, The Bastille in the First Days of Demolition, 1789, Musée Carnavalet- Historie de Paris© Musée Carnavalet. The Marquis de Lafayette, one of the revolutionaries who ordered the destruction of La Bastille, so admired this work, Robert gave it to him.
Hubert Robert, Arhitectural Capriccio with the Portico of Octavia, 1784, Musée du Louvre, Paris, on deposit at the Embassy of France, London
Hubert Robert, The Pantheon with the Port of Ripetta, 1766, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, on deposit from the Departement des PePeintures du Musée du Louvre
Hubert Robert, The Destruction of the Royal Tombs of Saint-Denis, 1793, Musée Carnavalet- Historie de Paris© Musée Carnavalet 
Hubert Robert, Feeding the Prisoners of Saint-Lazare, 1794, Musée Carnavalet- Histoire de Paris© Musée Carnavalet

During the French Revolution, Hubert Robert and other prisoners at Saint-Lazare, ate cheese flavored with maggots and worm-infested herring, and they drank poisoned wine.  Above, prisoners beg outsiders for better provisions. 
Photo by Patricia Leslie

One of 18th century's most successful artists was Hubert Robert (1733-1808) whose keen interest lay in architectural capriccio when he combined old and new or make-believe.  A sci-fi artist!

He would have been right at home in Washington, D.C. today (and, as a matter of fact, is here for one day more), able to choose and draw the past and insert and lift the old and the fictional.

He could have painted the brutalist Third Church of Christ, Scientist, by the I.M. Pei firm, up against a boring, stereotypical modern office building which took its place at the corner of 16th and I streets, NW,  the church architecture always one of my favorites to admire, but n'ermore.

Shame, shame and sigh. I want to preserve it all.

Known to many in the art world as "Robert of the Ruins," the artist was born in Paris and traveled at age 21 to Rome to study where he stayed 11 years, visiting, among many pleasures, the countryside with his pal, Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), drawing landscapes and learning.

Returning to Paris, his mind was filled with memories  of monuments and Italian antiquities, many which found their way into his works and helped elevate his position among French artists.  A versatilist, Robert drew beautiful, romantic landscapes, too, and was well respected as a garden designer, interior decorator, and draftsman.

Caught in the upheaval of the French Revolution (1789-1799), Robert was arrested and imprisoned, scenes which he drew and now present an eyewitness account of the Revolution on the walls at the National Gallery .

After the war, he returned to the Musée du Louvre where he resumed his position as a curator which Robert remained until his death.
More than 100  paintings and drawings comprise the exhibition, the first monographic Hubert Robert exhibition in the U.S. and the first anywhere since 1933. The National Gallery and the Musée du Louvre, where it opened earlier this year, organized the presentation.

A color catalogue of almost 300 pages is available in National Gallery shops. Here is a link to an audio of the introductory lecture at the National Gallery of Art.

What: Hubert Robert, 1733-1808

Closing today at 6 p.m., Sunday, October 2, 2016.  The National Gallery opens at 11 a.m.

Where: West Building, the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission charge: Never on Sunday or any day

Metro stations
for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

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