(b Paris, 22 May 1733; d Paris, 15 Apr. 1808).
French landscape painter. From 1754 to 1765 he lived in Italy (mainly Rome), where he became a friend of Fragonard and made a large number of drawings that were a source for his pictures after his return to Paris. Like Fragonard, he had a lively touch and in their drawings they are sometimes so close in style that it is difficult to distinguish their hands. However, whereas Fragonard was primarily a figure painter, Robert became the chief pioneer and leading exponent of scenes involving ruined buildings (he was nicknamed ‘Robert des Ruines’). Some of his paintings are fairly accurate depictions of real architecture (in this he was influenced by Panini, whom he knew in Rome), but he also produced imaginary ruinscapes, including a type—the ‘anticipated ruin’—in which he showed modern buildings as they might look after falling into decay (The Grande Galerie of the Louvre in Ruins, 1796, Louvre, Paris). His work was much in demand—part of the vogue for rather artificial, idealized landscape that was one aspect of Rococo taste. As well as delicacy and charm, however, his paintings have grandeur and he could work convincingly on a large scale: many of his pictures were intended for a specific decorative context in grandiose interiors. In 1784 Louis XVI appointed him keeper of his pictures and gave him responsibility for creating a museum at the Louvre. However, he fell foul of intrigue during the Revolution and was imprisoned in 1793–4 (the story that he escaped execution when another person of the same name was guillotined in his stead is of dubious authenticity). After his release he returned to his successful career and is said to have died ‘brush in hand’.