Henri Alexander Robbe (1807-1899) seems to have lived not only a long but an interesting life that spanned most of the fast-changing 19th century. He was first taught to paint by his accomplished brother, Louis, who specialized in animal subjects and was a friend of fellow Belgian artist Eugene Verboeckhoven. However, Henri’s primary interest in the 1830s was music. He was a student of Gioachino Rossini, the Italian composer of such operas as The Barber of Seville and William Tell (the overture of which many of us baby boomers recognize as the musical theme of The Lone Ranger.) Henri was both a singer and a music teacher for several years in Paris before returning to Brussels in 1840 to paint alongside his brother.
Robbe’s romantic style of shimmering fruit and beautiful flowers (usually including roses) against dark backgrounds proved to be successful. Henri exhibited not only in Brussels, but in London, Vienna, and Paris. His acclaim as a flower painter rose quickly, and he won many international awards and medals. My 18-year-old copy of “Davenport’s Art Reference…” refers to Robbe as a painter of “still lifes, flowers, fruit, shells and objects.” It also states that one of his works sold for $50,000 at auction. Mssr. Benezit, in his “Dictionnaire des Artistes…” notes that flower and/or fruit paintings by the artist are in the collections of several European museums, from Brussels to Paris to Moscow.
Depicting a basketful of roses, Robbe’s favorite flower, spilling out of a large basket, this is a large and fine example of his work. The colors of the exquisitely executed roses range from red to pink in all possible shades. The leaves act as foils to present the flowers at their most sensuous. The dark, dramatic background varies from dark to lighter, offering a sense of power and mystery unusual in still lifes. The painting flows almost magically across the canvas, taking one’s eyes and emotions with it. It is signed on the lower right corner.
It seems that the romantic notions of beauty, vivid sensuality, and emotionalism, combined with an appreciation for the glories of nature are as keenly appreciated today as they were in the artist’s lifetime; the reason Robbe’s works can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
The condition of the painting is excellent. I have had it professionally cleaned and restored. I also have had the exquisitely painted frame restored as well.
It measures 38-1/2 inches wide by 30-5/8 inches high, including the frame.
Still Life of Roses in a Basket, by Henri Robbe
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