Theodore Robinson

(1852-1896)

Theodore Robinson, the frail, unassuming painter of small-scale views of the landscape and people of his native New England and his adopted France, was nonetheless possibly the single most important figure in the development of American Impressionism. His active career spanned only two decades, of which the first ten were occupied either with decorative painting or with oil and watercolor studies executed in a generalized Barbizon style.

It was not until his arrival in Giverny in the summer of 1887 (making him one of the first Americans to visit the pivotal "Impressionist" village) that Robinson began using the broken brushwork and heightened, sunlit color of Giverny's most famous resident, Claude Monet. Yet every work that Robinson painted thereafter, whether in Giverny (1887-92), or New York and, especially Cos Cob, Connecticut (after his return to the United States in 1893), breathes with the poetic charm of his own highly personal style.

His active brushwork and varied textures often give his paintings an "unfinished" look that belies their carefully worked-out construction. The subtlety of his colors often obscures the fact that he builds his pictorial volumes with rich juxtapositions of tone and hue. And the humble nature of his subjects tends to conceal the depth of his understanding of the Impressionist revolution in painting, in which subject as well as style represented an emancipation from academic formulae