Of the many American painters drawn to the French Village of Giverny, Theodore Robinson made the most lasting and meaningful contribution to American Impressionism. "The most significant of the Girvernois," writes Professor William H. Gerdts, "was Theodore Robinson. Though he died quite young, his work received far more critical notice in America than that of any other artists during Impressionism's crucial formative years there... Most important his painting was stronger, more varied and at its best perhaps more beautiful than that of many of his contemporaries." (American Impressionism, New York, 1984, p. 66)
Painted in 1892 at the height of his abilities, November reflects the finest qualities of this painter's highly personal vision of American Impressionism. Whereas Robinson's pictures from the late 1880s and earlier were more tightly rendered, it was not until around 1888, when he moved next door to Claude Monet, that he fully adopted the Impressionist aesthetic. And by the early 1890s he had liberated his paint application to create more painterly, livelier surface-qualities clearly evident in November.
The palette Robinson chose for November is highly refined and sophisticated. The predominant colors of green, pink and touches of crimson synthesize with the soft, evocative blues seen in the figure's cloak. Overall the composition has a harmonious quality that is characteristic of American Impressionism at its finest.
Robinson painted November on an unusually large canvas. His typical works from this period are somewhat smaller than November, measuring 18 x 22 inches or less. In its size and scale Robinson may have considered November to be among his more important compositions--a major artistic statement that displays his highly personal approach to Impressionist technique and style.
Robinson acquired a thorough understanding of Impressionism through the work of Claude Monet, yet the American painter was not merely an imitator of the French master. Robinson absorbed Monet's theories and built on them to create works that reflected his personal style of Impressionism. In November Monet's influence is clearly evident in the broken, lively brush work and the animated paint surface. However Robinson's thorough training in draftsmanship can be seen in the firmly drawn figure standing solidly in three-dimensional space. Sona Johnson has written, "He did not abstract the image before him as Monet had advised. With few exceptions his forms remain solid, firmly-defined, and the subject matter is always clearly identifiable. Although the degree of his initial devotion to Monet's Impressionism is obvious, his art demonstrates a selection and a subsequent interpretation of these elements most sympathetic to his manner of expression." (Theodore Robinson, Baltimore, Maryland, 1973, p. xiv)
Unlike many American painters who converted to the Impressionist aesthetic with little thought, Robinson continued to probe the nature of Impressionism until his early death in 1896. He wrote in his diary in 1894--two years after completing November, "I am impressed with the necessity of synthesis, and ignoring of petty details, and seeing things du grand cot. And this is not incompatible with modernit and the true plein-air feeling. . . Altogether the possibilities are very great for the moderns, but they must draw without ceasing or they will 'get left,' and with the brilliancy and light of real out-doors, combine the austerity, the sobriety, that has always characterized good painting." November represents the requirements of a good painting described by Robinson-the necessity of synthesis, in which he combined sound draftsmanship with flawless observation of light and radiant color to create a painterly composition of enduring beauty.
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonn of the work of Theodore Robinson being compiled by Sona Johnson and Ira Spanierman.