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The factories of Hubert Robert in La Roche-Guyon

In the Val-d'oise, an exhibition reveals an unsung aspect of the activities of this painter touches-to-all: the Art of gardens.

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The factories of Hubert Robert in La Roche-Guyon
The painter Hubert Robert (1733-1808) had a long career and a prolific work, where Italian landscapes, ruins and ... fires occupied a place of choice. He was subject of a major exhibition at Louvre in 2016. That of Château de La Roche-Guyon, although more modest, is noneless fascinating, because it focuses on an unsung aspect of activity of this key-to-all talented: The art of gardens. And this on very places where she exercised.

Trained at Académie de France in Rome on occasion of a ten-year stay in Italy, Hubert Robert soaked up many landscapes he surveyed during his "Grand Tour". Returned to France in 1765, he was received following year at Royal Academy of Painting and sculpture as "architectural painter". Fashion was in antique, and this mode had even a name: "Anticomanie". The compositions born of his travel memories and enriched by a learned and fertile imagination will be very successful.

Rich Sponsors

Dispensing drawing lessons to some enlightened members of aristocracy, he replied to solicitations of wealthy sponsors. Thus "views of Normandy" (reproduced in exhibition), four painted panels of decor of palace of Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld, future emigrated to ... Maastricht. It is probably through this that Hubert Robert was introduced to owners of Roche-Guyon, Rohan-Chabot and La Rochefoucauld. And it is also probably to his intention that beautiful view of castle of Madame of Enville ( Château de la Roche-Guyon), lent by Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen, was painted.

It was at La Roche-Guyon that Hubert Robert exercised his first talents as a "landscaper" ( word did not yet designate garden designers). The "English Garden", with its "promenade conceived as a machine to look at landscape" (Marie-Laure Atger, director of public establishment of château), was dotted with "factories". Stairs, balustrades, caves or waterfalls, se factories were "constructions that human industry adds to nature for embellishment of gardens", according to words of a contemporary reported by historian Monique Mosser.

"Robert of Ruins"

Hubert Robert acquired such a reputation in matter that he was named "Designer of King's Gardens". He conceived decor of Baths of Apollo, in Versailles, with Grotto, waterfall and basin, drew hamlet of Queen, at Petit Trianon, and dairy of Château de Rambouillet, always for Marie-Antoinette. He also advised, for his Parc Ermenonville, Marquis de Girardin, host of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. And he conceived above all, for Marquis de Lai, Parc de Méréville, which he painted several times ( paintings being gared at occasion of exhibition).

Imprisoned for a few months, before 9 Thermidor, Hubert Robert continued to draw and paint until his prison, before being released and appointed curator of Future Louvre Museum, which he painted in open skies and invaded by vegetation.

It is through an exhibition of photographs that course ends: those, due to Carine Pachowski, fascinating factories of one to whom posterity kept nickname of "Robert of Ruins".

"Hubert Robert and Garden Factory", Château de la Roche-Guyon, La Roche-Guyon (Val-d'oise). Tel.: 01-34-79-74-42. Until 26 November. Catalogue: €29. Great opportunities to visit English garden.

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