Hubert Robert, (born May 22, 1733, Paris, France—died April 15, 1808, Paris), French landscape painter sometimes called Robert des Ruines because of his many romantic representations of Roman ruins set in idealized surroundings.
Robert left Paris for Rome in 1754 and studied at the French Academy there. He also met the French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard in Rome, and in 1760 they traveled together with the Abbé de Saint-Non through southern Italy on a drawing expedition.
Robert developed a strong fascination with architecture and ruins, and he was strongly influenced by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the renowned etcher of architectural subjects who was then publishing his great collections of etchings of Roman architecture. Among Robert’s best-known works from his Roman period is a series of red chalk drawings of the gardens at the Villa d’Este, that feature the garden’s dilapidated Classical-style architecture set in an overgrown landscape and animated with small human figures.
Returning to Paris in 1765, Robert became a member of the French Royal Academy in 1766. A gifted decorative artist, he based his paintings on his Italian drawings, and his popularity was enhanced by exhibitions at the Salons from 1767 onward. In addition to Italian landscapes, he painted scenes of Ermenonville, Marly, and Versailles, near Paris, and of the south of France, with its ruined Roman monuments. In 1778 he was appointed dessinateur des jardins du roi (“designer of the king’s gardens”) and designed a new grotto for the gardens at Versailles as well as an English-style garden at the château of Rambouillet for Louis XVI. In the 1780s and ’90s he painted a series of oil sketches of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre as part of a proposed replanning. He also continued to paint Italian landscapes. He was imprisoned during the latter part of the French Revolution (1793–94), but he carried on his work during his incarceration. | © Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
His success on his return to Paris in 1765 was rapid: the following year he was received by the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, with a Roman capriccio, The Port of Rome, ornamented with different Monuments of Architecture, Ancient and Modern. Robert's first exhibition at the Salon of 1767 was greeted in print by Denis Diderot, "The ideas which the ruins awake in me are grand." He was successively appointed "Designer of the King's Gardens", Keeper of the King's Pictures" and "Keeper of the Museum and Councilor to the Academy".
1796 painting by Robert showing a design for the Grand Gallery of the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Robert was arrested in October 1793, during the French Revolution. He survived his detentions at Sainte-Pélagie and Saint-Lazare by painting vignettes of prison life on plates before he was freed at the fall of Robespierre. Robert narrowly escaped the guillotine when through error another prisoner died in his place.
Subsequently he was placed on the committee of five in charge of the new national museum at the Palais du Louvre.
The Revolution also resulted in the destruction of some of Robert's work. Robert had designed the decorations for a little theatre in the new wing at the location of the current staircase Gabriel in the Palace of Versailles. Designed to seat about 500, this theatre was built from the summer of 1785 and opened in early 1786. It was intended to serve as an ordinary court theatre, replacing the Theatre of the Princes Court which was too old and too small, but was destroyed during the time of Louis Philippe. A watercolour of Robert's design is in the National Archives in Paris. Robert died of a stroke on 15 April 1808.
ROBERT, Hubert - Pittore, nato il 22 maggio 1733 a Parigi, dove morì il 15 aprile 1808. Allievo di Michelangelo Slodtz, si recò nel 1754 a Roma, e vi ottenne nel 1759 un posto all'Accademia di Francia. A Roma divenne discepolo del Pannini, studiò le stampe del Piranesi, e sotto questo duplice influsso si specializzò come pittore di rovine, genere che soddisfaceva il gusto dell'epoca amante nello stesso tempo dell'antichità e del sentimento (Veduta del Campidoglio; Colosseo di Roma); dipinse paesaggi da pellegrino appassionato per l'Italia, nei quali il tono archeologico è animato da aneddoti briosi e familiari e soprattutto dall'elemento pittoresco e dal movimento della luce. Soggiornando nella Villa d'Este di Tivoli insieme col Fragonard e il Saint-Non, il R. eseguì celebri sanguigne tra cui le più belle sono nel museo di Valence, in cui le architetture di marmo emergono dalla folta vegetazione.
Tornato in Francia nel 1765, fu ammesso all'Accademia reale presentando il Porto di Ripetta a Roma (École des beaux-arts). Nei suoi quadri egli si ricordò sempre dei luoghi visti in Italia, ma s'ispirò anche alle rovine della Provenza e della Linguadoca che gli rammentavano i paesaggi italiani. Talvolta ricompose con senso poetico e fantastico le rovine reali (Riunione dei più celebri monumenti antichi della Francia). A Parigi stessa, le demolizioni gli servivano di modello (Rimozione delle armature dal Ponte di Neuilly; Demolizione delle botteghe al Pont-au-Change; Incendio dell'Opéra; Demolizione della Bastiglia; Saccheggio della basilica di Saint-Denis).
Fu soprattutto decoratore: e alcuni suoi complessi decorativi si conservano anche in Russia, nel palazzo Stroganov di Leningrado e nel castello d'Archangelskoe presso Mosca. Disegnatore di giardini, disegnò i "Bagni d'Apollo" di Versailles e diede consigli per il villaggio del Trianon. Primo conservatore dei quadri del Museo reale, egli organizzò la grande galleria del Louvre, della quale due sue vedute sono a Detskoe Selo (prima Carskoe Selo). Fu chiamato "Robert des ruines", ma fu anche il pittore di Parigi, dei suoi monumenti, dei suoi giardini, dei suoi musei, memore sempre dell'Italia che aveva formato la sua arte non soltanto con i suoi paesaggi ma con gl'insegnamenti del Pannini, di cui egli possedeva molti dipinti. | di Andrée R. Schneider © Treccani Enciclopedia Italiana (1936)