The directory «Artists»
Robert's father, Nicolas Robert, served as ecuyer (an upper servant) to the well-connected Marquis of Choiseul-Stainville, an association that proved useful throughout his son’s life. Hubert Robert was given a classical education by the Jesuits at the prestigious Collège de Navarre (1745-1751), the most important Paris school after the Sorbonne. That he was an able classical scholar, proud of his knowledge of ancient history and literature is reflected in the attention he gave to Latin inscriptions and archaeological details in his art. He first studied with the sculptor Michel-Ange Slotz, with whom he learned perspective and drawing which gave him a useful grounding but nonetheless evidently persuaded him to direct his talents to painting. In 1754, he traveled to Rome in the entourage of the newly appointed ambassador from France to Rome, his patron’s son and heir the Count of Stainville, later Duke of Choiseul and first Minister of France.
Robert spent eleven years in Rome, an unusually long period for a young man without any official post at the French Academy, meeting prominent collectors and artists, including Piranesi and Panini, both of whom profoundly influenced him. Although he was not a pensionnaire at the Academy (not needing the financial support this brought) and had never competed for, much less won, a Prix de Rome, he was given special permission to join the students at the French Academy. There he met the young Fragonard and was introduced to the distinguished amateur, the Abbé de Saint-Non, who commissioned from the two artists’ drawings that he planned to use in his publications of views of Italian cities, antiquities, and works of art. Saint-Non took Robert to Naples in April 1760 for a visit that exposed him to the excavations at Pompeii and provided him with further sources for his capriccii. Robert remained in Rome until 1765, returning to Paris where his career met with early success. The following year, with unusual speed, he was both agrée and reçu by the Académie Royale.
His paintings and drawings proved him to be not only a literal observer, but also a poetic interpreter of landscape and views of Rome, Paris, and the countryside of the Île-de-France. He painted fantasies, such as the Grand Galerie of the Louvre in ruins; but he was on the scene to make sketches (and ultimately, paintings) of the Hôtel Dieu in flames (1772), and the demolition of the Pont Nôtre-Dame. He was a frequent exhibitor at the Salons, and enjoyed the patronage of leading collectors and members of the aristocracy. In the 1780s, he was appointed designer and draftsman of the King's gardens. At Méréville he designed gardens for the Marquis de Laborde and at Ermenonville, for the Marquis de Girardin. His series of views of the garden of Madame Geoffrin (now in a Paris private collection) were among the best of his work done for prominent private patrons.
During the French Revolution, Robert was imprisoned and sentenced to death. He only escaped because someone was mistakenly guillotined in his place.
Central African Republic, 1989, Demolition of the Bastille
Congo, 1968, Demolition of the Bastille
Peru, 1990, Demolition of the Bastille