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Hubert Robert, 1733–1808

June 26 – October 2, 2016
West Building, Main Floor, Northeast Galleries

Hubert Robert, The Ponte Salario, c. 1775, National Gallery of Art, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1952.5.50

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: One of the most prominent artists of his era, Hubert Robert is perhaps best known today as “Robert of the Ruins,” the nickname bestowed on him by the eighteenth-century philosopher, critic, and encyclopedist Denis Diderot. Indeed, Robert loved and depicted ruined structures of all types, whether real or imagined, and not just those of ancient Rome (he lived in Italy for eleven years). He also drew inspiration from scenes he encountered in his native France, including urban renewal projects, Gallo-Roman antiquities, and natural disasters. At the core of his success was his brilliance as a master of the architectural capriccio, in which random monuments from different locales were artfully brought together to create new, completely imaginary landscapes.

In addition to being a talented landscape painter, Robert was a gifted and prolific draftsman, an engaging printmaker, an interior decorator, and a garden designer. Lively, intelligent, and much sought after, this good-humored, well-loved bon vivant moved easily through the most exalted circles of Paris’s society, even though his own parents had been personal attendants in an aristocratic household.  He later addressed the demise of this glittering world through representations of contemporary events such as the vandalizing of royalist monuments and the destruction of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution. Imprisoned himself, he narrowly escaped the guillotine and upon his release completed a series of meditative depictions of the newly created Musée du Louvre, where he served as curator until his death in 1808.  With some 50 paintings and 50 drawings, this monographic exhibition, coorganized by the National Gallery of Art and the Musée du Louvre, is the first in more than 80 years to encompass his entire career and to survey his achievements as both a painter and a draftsman.

Organization: The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Sponsors: 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.

Catalog: Hubert Robert. By Margaret Morgan Grasselli and Yuriko Jackall. Washington, D.C. : National Gallery of Art, 2016. 

Other Venues: Musée du Louvre, Paris, March 9–May 30, 2016

Hubert Robert at the Flower-Strewn Abyss
Video, Released: November 29, 2016, (73:03 minutes)
Introducing Hubert Robert
Audio, Released: July 19, 2016, (54:56 minutes)