Theodore Robinson was the most thoughtful and intelligent of those American artists it is now customary to call impressionist, and also the most literate (the diaries he kept during the last four years of his life are felicitously written and sprinkled with references to and quotations of such writers as Tobias Smollett, Gustave Flaubert, Walt Whitman, and Henry James). He suffered, too, from persistently debilitating ill health, the chronic asthma that ended his life at the early age of forty-four.
This self-portrait was painted in France -- he wears a beret (an undated photograph of Robinson at work shows him wearing the same beret, and it is inscribed "Robinson peint par lui même") -- when he was in his early thirties. In its concentrated, focused intensity and emaciated features, Robinson's painting captures the salient characteristics of both his mind and body. In showing himself in profile, rather than in the usual frontal mirror view, it is also a representational tour de force.
Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr.
Senior curator of American and British paintings