Artist: Hubert Robert (French, 1733-1808)
Title: Landscape with a Temple (18th century, Oil on canvas, 64 x 46 in., Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. 81.1)
What do you notice about the buildings? Select one and choose 5 words to describe it.
Look at the way the people are dressed. Does their dress match what you know of the architecture?
What else do you notice about the painting?
Within a short distance from each other are the Colosseum (Coliseum), the Pantheon, and marble sculptures that are, in actuality, several miles apart. The French painter Hubert Robert was well known for his paintings of architectural ruins from ancient Rome, earning him the nickname “Robert of the ruins.” Working in Rome in the mid-1800s, Robert would have been exposed to the growing interest in the recent excavations of the Roman cities Pompeii and Herculaneum. Not intending to present an actual rendering of the landscape, he chose to group the landmarks in a nostalgic glimpse of the vanished grandeur of the Roman Empire. Dotted throughout the ruins are people dressed, not in the clothing of ancient Rome, but in peasant attire reminiscent of the artist’s lifetime. Cattle sip from the lavish remains of a fountain topped with the statue, Horse Tamers of Monte Cavallo.
Hubert Robert painted during a period in which many artists were interested in looking back to Roman history as a source of inspiration. The movement was widespread, reaching its height during the latter part of Robert’s life and lasting well into the 19th century. Turning from the frivolity of the rococo period, neoclassical artists sought a return to classical beauty. These ideals were found in the skill and artistry of ancient Greek and Roman artists who created works of art using clean lines, well-proportioned forms, and a sense of unity. European travelers visited Rome, on what was known as the Grand Tour, to view the ruins and excavated finds of antiquity. They then reproduced these classical themes in their painting, sculpture, and/or architecture.
Why do you think people were interested in ruins from thousands of years ago? Do they interest you?
Imagine you are one of the people in the painting. What would it feel like to walk within this scene?