Theodore Robinson (1852-1896)
Theodore Robinson (1852-1896)

Girl in Hammock

Theodore Robinson (1852-1896)
Girl in Hammock
oil on canvas laid down on board
18 x 16¾ in. (45.7 x 42.5 cm.)
Painted in 1894.
Macbeth Gallery, New York.
Private collection, acquired from the above.
Sale: American Art Association, New York, Thomas R. Ball, et al., 13-14 March 1919, no. 125.
E.T. Ridgeway, acquired from the above.
N.E. Montross, New York.
Sale: American Art Association, New York, N.E. Montross, 8 February 1923, no. 52.
John Levy Galleries, New York, acquired from the above.
Private collection, acquired from the above.
Sale: American Art Association, New York, F.W. Woolworth, et al., 5-6 January 1927, no. 129.
David Roberts, acquired from the above.
Mrs. Lonie H. Jenkins, New York, acquired from the above.
Private collection, New York.
American Art Annual, vol. 20, 1923, p. 286, no. 52.
J.I.H. Baur, Theodore Robinson: 1852-1896, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1946, pp. 42, 63, no. 76, pl. XXXII, illustrated.
O. Gueft, "Perfectionism on Park Avenue," Interiors, December 1962, pp. 67, 68.
"Those Manhattan Designers of Good Fortune," Fortune, March 1966, p. 132, illustrated.
ACA Galleries, 19th and 20th Century Masterpieces in New York Private Collections, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1978, pp. 80-81, illustrated.
W.H. Gerdts, American Impressionism, New York, 1984, pp. 152-53, pl. 161, illustrated (as Girl in a Hammock).
Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Museum, Theodore Robinson: 1852-1896, November 12, 1946-January 5, 1947.
New York, ACA Galleries, 19th and 20th Century Masterpieces in New York Private Collections, September 26-October 14, 1978.

Lot Essay

Theodore Robinson's Girl in Hammock demonstrates a unique synthesis of French Impressionist technique and American sensibility, and it is a splendid example of the artist's inimitable aesthetic. John I.H. Baur wrote of Robinson's mature style, "His positive contribution lay in the achievement of a personal kind of Impressionism which was lyrical and tender and a little sentimental, but genuine and deeply felt. Rooted in the American realist tradition, there is a quality of draughtsmanship and solid structure beneath his broken color which makes his work quite characteristically American." (Theodore Robinson, 1852-1896, Brooklyn, New York, 1946, p. 50)

Whereas Robinson's pictures from the late 1880s and earlier were more tightly rendered, it was not until 1888, when he moved next door to Claude Monet in the small French country town of Giverny, that he fully adopted the Impressionist style. The painters worked alongside one another, and Sona Johnston writes that this "served to synthesize tendencies already apparent in [Robinson's] art in the mid-1880's into a personal impressionist style." (Theodore Robinson, 1852-1896, Baltimore, Maryland, 1973, p. vii) By the early 1890s Robinson had liberated his palette and brushwork to create more painterly, vibrant surfaces clearly evident in Girl in Hammock.

Painted in the summer of 1894 while Robinson was teaching a class for the Brooklyn Art School at Evelyn College in Princeton, New Jersey, Girl in Hammock demonstrates his integration of the tenets of French Impressionism, particularly in palette, attention to the play of light on the figure and landscape and bravura brushwork. The work, which depicts Robinson's friend, Miss Buttles, was one of few that the artist completed that summer and, as John I.H. Baur comments, "Few finished paintings of this summer are known. Two, Nettie Reading and Girl in Hammock, revert to his French manner, being sweeter in color and not so self-consciously American. They are the small, intimate subjects which he could always do best." (Theodore Robinson: 1852-1896, 1946, p. 42) Indeed, William H. Gerdts, the pre-eminent expert on American Impressionism, writes of the present work, "The painting is the finest of several he did of this subject in his last years." (American Impressionism, New York, 1982, p. 152)

In the present work, Robinson sets the solidly rendered figure within a broadly brushed landscape of vivid greens and yellows, a sliver of blue sky visible through the trees. He adeptly captures the play of light and shadow on the sun-dappled landscape and, to attain compositional unity, utilizes highlights of pinks and blues in the grass and trees that are similar to those of Miss Buttles' clothes. The hammock adds complexity, and the cropping of the scene demonstrates the influence of Japanese prints, which were popular with Impressionist artists at the time. "This wedding of French born Impressionism to American art was one of Robinson's achievements, and it is this which give him, aside from the more personal characteristics of his work, a measure of importance in the history of our art." (Theodore Robinson, 1852-1896, 1946, p. 51) Girl in Hammock, with its mastery of light and color and careful balance of bold brushwork with form and mass, exhibits all the hallmarks of Robinson's best work.

This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work being compiled by Ira Spanierman and Sona Johnston.

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