Born in Odessa to the family of a French bookseller, Frantz Roubaud started to demonstrate his talent for painting very early in his life. Accepted to the Odessa Drawing School at the age of nine, he later enrolled at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in 1877. He also took classes from famous Polish battle painter Józef Brandt (1841-1915). In the 1880s Roubaud established himself as a battle and realist painter mostly focusing on the military history of Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the people of the region. His first panorama painting The Siege of Akhulgo earned him international fame, a title of Professor of the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in 1891, and the position of the head of the studio for battle painting at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg in 1903. His two later panoramas depicting significant and heroic events from Russian history, The Siege of Sevastopol (1902-1904) and The Battle of Borodino (1911), secured his success as a founder of the Russian school of panoramic painting.
The Battle of the Katzbach is an excellent example of the monumental style of history painting that made Roubaud famous. Painted in 1914, it corresponds to his famous The Battle of Borodino, as the artist seems to follow the French army as it retreats back to Western Europe following its defeat in the Patriotic War of 1812. During the battle at the Katzbach (now Kaczawa) river in the Prussian province of Silesia, one of the largest and most important battles of the Napoleonic Wars, the French army under Field-Marshal Macdonald collided with the Russo-Prussian Silesian army under Prussian General Leberecht von Blücher with the coalition taking the victory. Known for his careful preparation for each painting and his profound study of historical facts, Roubaud depicts a dramatic scene with the French cavalry rushing into the battle, swords glistening in the sun as heavy rain earlier that day rendered firearms impractical. Demonstrating historical accuracy and great attention to detail, Roubaud masterfully portrays the heat of the fight with the Allied army visible in the background. Painted when Roubaud had already moved from Russia to Germany, The Battle of the Katzbach took pride of place in the artist’s studio in Munich, a sign of the artist’s own appreciation of the work.