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The Fountain, c. 1775

Hubert Robert

French, 1733-1808
Oil on canvas
26 x 20 in. (66.0 x 50.8 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1965.1.055.P
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Hubert Robert was a prolific artist, known above all for his landscapes and sentimental scenes of ruins and fountains. He spent eleven years in Italy, where at a relatively young age he had already attained some success, largely because of his ability to cater to visitors and tourists by painting small, portable panels that could be transported easily and serve as a record of their grand tour. After his residency at the French Academy in Rome, he travelled to Naples with the Abbé Saint-Non, a prolific collector and engraver, whose prints of Robert’s paintings were widely circulated and contributed to Robert’s notoriety. Through Saint-Non, Robert was introduced to Fragonard, with whom he travelled to Tivoli, where nearby Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) and the gardens of Villa d’Este may have inspired his many paintings of parks with fountains and water features.

This delicate composition was presumably painted from a sketch the artist made during his time in Italy. A larger version of the same composition, painted around 1794, now hangs in the Baltimore Museum of Art; it is said that Robert painted that version when he was imprisoned for a time during the Revolution.

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