Skip to main content

Hubert Robert

Hubert Robert - The Old Bridge
The Old Bridge, ca. 1775

Born in Paris on this day in 1733, Robert was not only one of the active vedutisti, or highly realistic scene painter but also a set designer for plays and landscape garden designer. Having studied in Rome for 11 years—part of that under the studio of Giovanni Paolo Panini—Hubert made numerous sketches and capricci which lead to paintings with a distinct flavour for dramatic light, antiquity and architecture that puts him in a category that few others can match. And living during the tumultuous French Revolution where he narrowly escaped death himself makes his life all the more interesting as a person; someone should make a film of his life.

In the above example, Robert uses strong chiaroscuro for this bridge in two point perspective. The fact that he shows every dilapidated stone to illustrate its age and character contrasts with a youthful sky and bright blue river underneath it...Robert seems to make a statement on the age of man-made creations that cannot stand up to the test of time. Nature is truly eternal, ageless, no matter how many centuries or millennia pass. What makes the work even more charming are the people doing laundry underneath the warm reflected light of the arch and hanging up their sheets on a laundry line. The figure on the lower right looks up, and directly above him is a cow on the bridge itself, while at the other end a long sheet hangs from the balcony, creating a triangular focal point to keep our eyes around the bridge. Symbolically, the bridge may represent the old-fashioned mentality of the time and unwillingness for progress or change. It may also show an understanding or balance between society and nature. At any rate, the feelings of quaintness and simplicity are so eloquently depicted here, an era now lost in time. (Compare that to our present modern world.)

Architectural Capriccio with Figures, ca.1750

Here we see some very loose brushwork, with thick glossy highlights with interesting greys and yellows not normally associated with a palette for architecture. Hubert creates a deep sense of presence and solidity. This time the figures are intellectuals, possibly artists or architects, comfortable in admiring the ancient ruins of Rome. Robert's brilliant knack for repoussoir frames this composition with dark trees to the right and rocks on the left, partially obscuring the figures themselves. Blue and yellow (yellow-orange) placed side-by-side is a motif throughout the painting, with green as a background colour. Again, Hubert reminds us of the impermanence of accomplishments, yet here he implies that the greatness of antiquity is immortal and needs to be consciously rediscovered in order to be appreciated.

Hubert Robert - Projet d'aménagement de la Grande Galerie du Louvre (1796)
Projet d'aménagement de la Grande Galerie du Louvre, 1796

Finally, a painting for painters about painting and museums. Artists copying Old Masters in the Louvre and becoming a work of art themselves. Hubert's use of one-point perspective here is breathtaking. Art is immortal.

Popular posts from this blog

More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri

Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Old Master Drawings

Drawing is not the form; it is the way of seeing the form.

A male nude from behind, c.1630 Gian Lorenzo Bernini

In this blog I talk about painting but the importance of drawing cannot be understated of course, and I believe we can learn just as much from studying their techniques of line and strokes as we can from brushstrokes...more in most cases as the drawing is more expressive and intimate. It reveals the personality and character of the artist.

The above drawing apparently comes from the period of Bernini's teaching at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, one of four from the exact same model. This drawing is fairly big for a study, at 55.6 x 42cm (21 x 16 inches). Consider Michelangelo's study for Libyan Sibyl, is only 28.9 x 21.4 cm (11 3/8 x 8 7/16 inches), a small study for a fresco which would be painted several times larger than life size. I can only guess that Bernini was teaching a big class and that maybe his work was on display for students to study, or it ma…