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The Parisian landscape painter Hubert Robert was born on May 22nd, 1808. He became famous for painting Classic Roman and French architectural structures, many times in ruins and within a semi-fictional environment. This fantasy landscape that joins real buildings with made-up elements is named capriccio and became Robert's specialty.
Upon concluding school in 1751, a religious education with the Jesuits, Robert began to learn technical drawing like perspective and design under Rene-Michel Slodtz, a French sculptor. His mentor realized Robert's talents for painting and urged him to take this direction in his career. About three years later, he moved to Rome, where he lived for eleven years.
In Rome, the artist studied at the French Academy, and after his residence ended, he was able to continue living in the Italian capital by selling his paintings. He earned his bread and butter by producing paintings for connoisseurs, experts on fine art. In 1760, Robert visited the inspiring ruins of Pompeii sponsored and accompanied by fellow artist Jean-Claude Richard. Jean-Claude, throughout his career, completed many engravings of Robert's work, just as many other artists would reproduce his images as well, like Linard and Chatelain.
Robert had a keen interest in painting the architectural excellence of ancient Rome but also enjoyed stimulating his imagination in what else could be seen in these landscapes. A beautiful example is View of the Port of Ripetta, where the French painter inserted a nonexistent port with stairs leading to water and people on rowboats in front of the Pantheon.
While living in Rome, Robert was friends and worked with artists from Piranesi's group. They all worked with capriccio painting, which profoundly influenced the French painter's production. His overly Romantic portrayals of semi-fictional landscapes eventually got his colleagues calling him "Robert des ruines". During this period, he worked in the studio of Roman architect and painter, Giovanni Pannini.
In 1765, Hubert returned to his home-town, Paris. He was in the hight of his career and was featured in the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture the following year. By 1767, he had his first show in the Paris Salon, with multiple drawings and thirteen paintings. Robert continued participating in every yearly installment of the Salon for thirty-five years.
Hubert Robert was involved in the French Revolution, and in October of 1793, he was incarcerated. The artist continued imprisoned for ten months, in which he used this time to conclude over fifty paintings, as well as many drawings. He also sketched out many paintings on plates portraying his experience in prison. Because of the conflicts of the revolution, some of the painter's artwork was destroyed. Robert was let free after Maximilien Robespierre was no longer in office.
The French artist's legacy continues in his extensive body of work, as he completed around ten thousand drawings and a thousand paintings, of which nine are housed in the Louvre Museum. Not only did he work as a painter, but he also worked as a consultant for high society and aristocrat patrons on garden design.
Hubert Robert died at 74 years old, on April 1808, after having a stroke.