Sunday, October 9, 2016

Robert of the Ruins

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through October 2, 2016

This exhibit has now closed, so I hope you got a chance to see it before it left the National Gallery.  I was unfamiliar with Hubert Robert before seeing this show, and I'm glad I have become acquainted with his work.

He painted pictures that juxtapose the ancient with the modern (or what was modern when he pained it, in the 1700s and early 1800s).  His work is of ancient ruins, populated with people going about their everyday business.  His works were known as cappriccios, puzzles to be solved.  He would put buildings together in a work that were not anywhere near each other in real life.  So the viewer must determine what is real?  And what is from Robert's imagination?  I was reminded of the "view paintings" of Venice I saw in a show several years ago.  They were often the view you wish you had seen in Venice, rather than the view that actually exists.

Unlike the romantic idea of the starving artist, living in a garret, refusing to compromise his vision for mere money, Robert was a bon vivant.  He painted for the elites of the day and lived very well himself.

Robert was also a chronicler of architectural change in Paris; I was reminded of the Marville show several years ago, which also detailed changes in the city.  It made me realize that Paris is always undergoing renovations.  Robert showed both those buildings going up and those being torn down - the latter becoming ruins for future everyday people to conduct their business around.

Verdict: An interesting show about a painter that I knew nothing about beforehand.  Great to expand my knowledge of art history.

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