Theodore Robinson

The Plum Tree

oil on canvas
24.25 x 18 inches
Inscribed (in pencil, on original backing board): The Plum Tree / Theo Robinson

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Provenance: A. Watson; to [Ferargil Galleries, New York, 1933–53]; [Milch Gallery, New York]; private collection, and by descent, until the 2008; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York]; to private collection, MN; to private collection, VA

Exhbited: The Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1946, Theodore Robinson, 1852–1896, p. 73 no. 180

Literature: Julie Carlson, “Plein Air Paintings on the Rise,” Antiques and Fine Art (Autumn 2004), p. 18 fig. 4 illus.
Born in Vermont and raised in Wisconsin, Theodore Robinson was a founding member of the Art Students League* in New York City and then became one of the pioneers of Impressionism* in America.  His style was refined with feathery brushwork and a soft palette, and he continually explored facets of the innovative style.

He first studied in Chicago and then in New York and after that, spent eight years in France studying in Paris with Jean Leon Gerome, Carolus Duran, and Benjamin Constant, and in Barbizon* with Jean Corot.  He was one of the first Americans to paint at Giverny* during Claude Monet’s presence there and the only American to work directly with and have a close friendship with Monet.  He has been described as physically frail and a gentle human being.

From 1888-1992, he made Giverny his home, and from that time became known for impressionist style landscapes with prominent realistically depicted female figures–elements of realism from academic studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts* and the National Academy of Design* in New York City. He also traveled and painted during that time in Italy.

In 1892, he returned permanently to the United States and attempted to meld French Impressionist techniques with American landscape subjects. He died very unexpectedly from an acute asthma attack, and, although was well respected by his peers at the time of his death, he achieved national attention posthumously, many years later.  For a person living only forty-three years, he had, in retrospect, a remarkably successful career as an artist.


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