Léon-Paul-Joseph Robert (1849-1888?)
an unknown painter with a common name
Robert only joined the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874:
At the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition Robert (Léopold) showed at least 3 works (catalogue numbers 159+160) (R2,p123). No. 160 contained at least two watercolours. Walther writes about exhibiting ‘two watercolours’ (R3,p692), but it is not indicated that no. 159 was a watercolour and than mostly it is an oil painting. Probably Pissarro had ruled Robert out from exhibiting again, because he was not ‘firmly committed to departing from official art’ (R116I,p166).
- 1874-159 Jeunes filles dans les foins en fleurs
(Eng.: Youngs girls in the hay and flowers.)
- 1874-160 Cadre , aquarelles
(Eng.: (picture) frame, watercolours)
Robert exhibited at the Salon from 1879-1883:
Robert exhibited at the Salon from 1879-1883 (R3,p692). In the Salon database (iR1) he is mostly called ‘Paul-Joseph Robert’ and in 1879 ‘Léon-Paul-Joseph Robert’. He was born in Bagneux and a pupil of Bonnat (and of Puvis de Chavannes). All these years he lives at 16, Rue de Navarin, Paris (see map). In 1879 there were 8 other artists with the last name ‘Robert’.
- S1879-2565 La présentation à la supérieure
Eng.: The presentation at the superieur.)
- S1880-3276 L’entrée dans la danse
(Eng.: the entry of the dance.)
- S1880-3277 Au cloître
(52x33cm; au salle 26 = non exempts.)
(Eng.: At the cloister. Ned.: De kloostergang / de kruisgang.)
- S1881-2025 Portrait de Mlle ***
(Eng.: Portrait of misses ***)
- S1882-2308 Avant la leçon
(Eng.: Before the lesson.)
- S1883-2070 A l’école
(Eng.: At the school)
- S1883-2071 La leçon de danse
(Eng.: the dance lesson)
What is known about the unknown Robert?
Moffett doesn’t give anymore information except that ‘Léon-Paul Robert’ was born in 1849 (R2,p508). And from the 1874 catalogue we can derive that Robert than lived at Barbizon (Seine-et-Marne; see map) and at Paris, 12, Rue Linné (see map) (R2,p123). Walther (R3,p692) confirms ‘Léon-Paul Robert’ was born in 1849 and adds this was in Bagneux (about 10km south of Paris, see map). Robert was a pupil of Bonnat and Puvis de Chavannes. Walther calls him a co-founder of the ‘Société des peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs’ leaving it vague if this is the same as the ‘Société Anonyme…’ of which Moffett doesn’t include him as a co-founder (R2,p105). Still Wildenstein confirms that Robert accepted the invitation of Monet to sign in (R22I,p107; It is interesting to know if there is more information to be derived from the correspondence of Monet.). Spiess only mentions him as partaker of the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition, but doesn’t even mention him in the register (R16,p371). Pissarro writes to Léon-Paul Robert (1880/03/14: ‘… it’s very hard for me to defend your interests, having ruled you out since our first exhibition. We want artists who are firmly committed to departing from official art’ (R116I,p166). Other sources don’t mention Robert at all.
The Getty Institute mentions a ‘Léon Paul Joseph Robert’ born in 1849 and still active in 1883 (iR60). Getty confirms he was born in Bagneux. This is also confirmed by the RKD (iR24) referring to the ‘dictionnaire critique…’ of Emmanuel Bénézit (1999). We have already seen this name in the Salon database (iR1; see above). It is striking that the third first name ‘Joseph’ is added to the ‘Léon Paul’ that Moffett and Walther use. It is even more striking that the first name ‘Léopold’ that is used in the catalogue, doesn’t return anywhere (except in the name of a Belgian painter; see below). Auction sites also mention a ‘Léon Paul Joseph Robert’ using the same information as the Getty Institute gives (iR12; iR13, iR16; iR41; iR45). Blouin also mentions an oil painting with the title ‘Mediterranean coastal landscape with sailing boats’ (41x51cm) dated 1922, which would mean he was still alive at the age of 73 (iR12). It was auctioned 1990/11/24 in Munich. An article about vanished French Impressionists can’t give information and calls Robert ‘truly vanished’ (aR1).
At the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris (see iR4) is a tomb ‘de la familles Harmand, Pitou et Robert’, including this inscription: ‘Joseph Léon Paul ROBERT, 39 ans et 5 mois, Alger 21 9bre 1888‘ (see iR6). So this Joseph Léon Paul Robert was born April 1849 and died 1888/09/21 in Alger. This date of birth is the same as our painter and so are all the three first names, so let’s assume our painter is buried in this tomb. Family search on the internet doesn’t provide extra information (iR67).
Wikipedia (iR3) and WikiData (iR66) only mention a ‘Louis Léopold Robert’ being a Swiss painter (1794-1835). A nephew of him, Léo-Paul Robert (1851-1923/4) also was a painter (aR2). At auction sites there is also a Belgian painter mentioned with the name ‘Leopold Robert’ who was born in 1850 and died in 1935 (iR11; iR16; iR41). Works known of him are a self-portrait, harbour scènes in Cannes and a work titled ‘pleading to the virgin Marie’. We already saw that at the Salon many other artists were named ‘Robert’. This makes it hard and important to discern who is who.
What is known about Robert as a painter?
Very little of course. Robert was about 25 when he joined the ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874, having a connection with Monet. It is not known if he exhibited elsewhere before or did admit to the Salon and was rejected. In 1874 he showed at least two untitled watercolours (1874-160). He also showed an oil painting depicting probably young girls lying in the hay and covered with flowers. This could be painted en-plein-air and looks like something in the middle of a figure painting and a landscape.
The next time that is known he exhibited, was in 1878 at the Salon. He would exhibit their 5 years at a row, for the last time when he was about 34 years old. It is striking that most of the oil paintings seem to depict dancing lessons, which gives an association with Degas. Mostly figure painting anyway. This is also the case with the only two works I could find of Robert on the internet. These two portraits look more formal, yet there is a touch of playfulness. The ‘young woman holding a violin’ gives me an association with Marie Bracquemond and ‘Girl with dog’ with Charles Chaplin (see). In all the titles there is no indication of place, time of day, weather or season.
So probably in the first years Robert was loosely connected to the impressionist art-movement, but there are no signs that he painted in an impressionist painting style.
I hope in the next years there will be more information and works found about Robert.
My main sources are Moffett (1986, R2), Walther (2013, R3) and the Salon database (iR1). For other general references (=R) see. For other references to internet sites (=iR) see. For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.