John Levy Galleries, New York
Jean-Baptiste Robie (1821-1910)
Still-life with Japanese vase, gilt mounted nautilus-shell cup, glass goblet and flowers on a ledge
Oil on panel, signed J Robie
77.5 x 55.9 cm.
Jean-Baptiste Robie excelled at painting sumptuous still-life arrangements of flowers, fruit and dead game against decorative works of art. This highly successful and gifted artist also painted a number of picturesque landscapes and scenes of animals during his many travels throughout Europe, the Middle East and India. Robie established an outstanding reputation among his public and the academic authorities. Among his many awards, he was made Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur as well as Commandeur de 1'Ordre de Léopold, He also won a third class medal at the Brussels Salon, 1850 and further distinguished himself in 1863 and in 1889 at the Exposition Universelle.
He was born in Brussels on 21st November 1821 and died in nearby Saint-Gilles on 8th December 1910. From his youth, he was obliged to paint for a living. Nevertheless, he received a rudimentary training, firstly attending the Academie Royale, Brussels, where he registered himself on a drawing course in 1836. He studied painting under Tasson, most probably the historical, mythological and religious painter, François Tasson (1811-90). During the academic year, 1837-38 he interrupted his studies but made up for it later when he enrolled on a course of drawing after the antique head. During 1839-40 and 1841-2, he also studied the antique figure under the historical and genre artist, Jean-Baptiste Van Eycken (1809-53). After many interruptions, Robie concluded his artistic training in 1842. The following year he made a successful debut at the Brussels Salon, marking the beginning of a long and productive career.
Robie is best known for his still lifes, featuring flowers in full bloom and arrangements with lush fruit or dead game. Some, as here, incorporated antique artifacts such as a nautilus-cup and glass goblet, while other works included ostrich eggs and chalices as well as Baroque jewelled caskets and Germanic silver goblets. The present painting also includes a magnificent Japanese vase, reflecting the growing interest among late nineteenth century European artist in Japanese art.
Like many nineteenth century painters, Robie was an avid traveller. He toured Europe extensively, in particular Italy, Spain and England, where he exhibited a still life at the London Royal Academy in 1875. He was also drawn to the Near and Far East, travelling to Upper Egypt, Syria, Palestine and to India, 1881-2. He made numerous written accounts of his travels and achieved significant repute as an author, writing in the way that he painted: with charm, precision and clarity. His most noted work 'Débuts d'un Peintre', published 1886 was partly autobiographical. His Indian travels inspired a number of hunting scenes, typically of tiger hunts, with the pursuers mounted on elephants and surrounded by an exotic landscape.
Robie's work was greatly admired, yet his fresh and atmospheric approach to his subject was never marred by commercial success. Even during his lifetime his paintings commanded high prices, such as a still life of flowers and fruit, sold in 1874 for 8,460 Fr, (Everard sale, Paris). His work was collected by contemporaries such as the French painter, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de La Pena (1807-76) and later by important collectors such as the Hirshhorn family. His paintings were also eagerly sought after by major museums including four still life oils and a view of a tiger hunt, each individually acquired during his lifetime by the Koninklijk Museum, Brussels. The artist's work can also be found in other world museums, from Minneapolis and Brooklyn. He is also represented in the museums of Ghent, Lille, Hamburg, Sydney and Boston, as well as the Uffizi in Florence, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Bruges Stadhuis.