ROBINSON. Theodore
(b. 1852, Irasburg, d. 1896, New York)

La débácle

Oil on canvas, 46 x 56 cm
Scripps College, Claremont

In 1887 a small group of North American artists — John Leslie Breck, William Blair Bruce, Willard Metcalf, Louis Ritter, Theodore Robinson, Henry Fitch Taylor, and Theodore Wendel — settled in Giverny for the summer season. Some appear to have been previously unaware of Monet's presence in the village, but at least two of them, Robinson and Metcalf, had visited during earlier summers. They set up their easels along the streams or on the hillside and became acquainted with their newly adopted village from a distance. At first they avoided depicting the village itself, preferring more familiar landscape motifs. Gradually, artists in Giverny began to experiment with Impressionism, inspired by Monet and also by the region's dramatic light. Within a few years, many began to employ the more luminous, high-keyed palette and looser brushwork characteristic of impressionism.

In the work of Robinson, North America made its own first influential contribution to Impressionism. Though a good friend of Monet from 1886 on, he never became dependent on the Frenchman's style. The years Robinson spent at Giverny before finally returning to the US in 1892 fell into two stylistic periods. In the first, he painted figures in landscape settings as well as pure landscapes. (La débácle represents this style.) In the second phase the individual features were dissolved into highlights of colour that were stripped of contour or detail. The Wedding March, painted in 1982 for the wedding of the American artist Theodore Earl Butler and Suzanne Hoschedé-Monet, Monet's stepdaughter, is a fine example of this phase.