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Theodore Robinson(1852 - 1896)
One of the first and most important of the American Impressionist painters, Theodore Robinson was responsible for introducing French Impressionism to many Americans.
He was born in Irasburg, Vermont, in l852 but moved with his family to Wisconsin when he was three. He was a sickly child; an asthmatic condition plagued him throughout his life and was responsible for his premature death at age forty-four.
Robinson's studies began in Chicago, but in l874 he moved to New York City to study at the National Academy of Design. In l876, he went to Paris to study under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran, but left to enroll at the Ecole des Beaux Arts under Jean-L‚on G‚rome. His paintings were mostly of landscapes and figures executed still in a realistic style. He spent summers in the village of Grez-sur-Loing with a colony of Americans, including the artists Birge Harrison and Will H. Low and the writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Before returning home in l879 Robinson spent some time in Italy. His only meeting with James McNeill Whistler occured in Venice, where the two artists painted side by side.
Upon his return to America, Robinson taught in New York City and Boston, where he did decorative work under John La Farge for both public and private buildings. During this time he also made a number of journeys from the city: to Jamaica, Vermont, Boston and then to Nantucket where he summered with artists Joe Evans and Abbott Thayer and produced a number of paintings of local subjects. By l884, however, he had accumulated enough money to return to his beloved France to paint.
The turning point in Theodore Robinson's artistic life came when he went to live at Giverny, near Rouen, and met the resident artist there, Claude Monet. Although never Monet's student, Robinson became part of his inner circle. His colors became softer, his brushstrokes lighter and his paintings more sensitive, although he still retained decisive contours at this time. Like Monet he often painted serially, utilizing the same outdoor scene in different lights.
A second trip to Italy and a brief return to New York City fall into this Giverny period. Robinson returned to America in l892 seeking to apply his fully developed Impressionist style to American subjects. A steady stream of artists visited his studio on l4th Street, including many who would become Impressionists as a result of their acquaintance with Robinson's advanced style. He also renewed his friendship with J. Alden Weir and John Henry Twachtman. He was a frequent visitor to Twachtman's home in Greenwich, Connecticut and spent long evenings with the Weirs in Branchville, Connecticut, discussing his new discoveries.
His style at this time had evolved closer to Monet's. The outlines of the forms were hazy and the colors were applied with loosened strokes. But before Robinson could carry this style any further he suffered an acute asthmatic attack and died in New York City in l896.
Theodore Robinson's work is in the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Terra Museum of American Art, the Georgia Museum of Art and in many other public and private collections.
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