Following his release in August 1794 from Saint-Lazare prison, where he had been sent as an 'enemy of Liberty' and incarcerated for months by the revolutionary regime, the 62-year-old Robert returned to his busy career as a painter of large-scale landscape decorations. Although his work does not seem to have been much affected by the dangerous and shifting political sands of revolutionary Paris, Robert did respond to the changing fashions in the fine arts. While his essential subject matter in the 1790s and early 1800s - sweeping landscapes, cloistered private parks, Italianate gardens - had changed little since the beginning of his career in the late 1750s, the charming opulence of his overstuffed compositions and the bravura vigor of his handling evolved in his final years into the spare, austere design and polished paint handling typical of the prevailing Neoclassical aesthetic.
The present view of a poplar-lined river with a chateau in the distance, observed by a trio of elegant figures, illustrates this shift in Robert's style. Its large scale and relatively pale, subdued palette are appropriate for its intended purpose - the decoration of a great, late-Louis XVI-style salon where it would have been inserted into brightly painted, carved boiserie paneling. Robert likely produced this work in the years preceding his death from an attack of apoplexy in 1808, perhaps around 1802, when he was frequently in the company of Mme Récamier. An almost identical composition of the same title, with the addition of figures and a dog in the foreground, 63 x 38 cm., was in the Duchesse de Trevise Collection Sale, Paris, 7 May 1917, lot 29.
We are grateful to Joseph Baillio for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.