Louis-Remy Robert 1810-1882

Biography

Louis-Remy Robert was one of the early pioneers of French photography from a family of artisans who worked at the Sevres Manufacturing plant. Like his father, Robert painted glass and porcelain at the plant. Robert assumed the role of his father as the head of the glass-painting atelier at the age of twenty-two, following his father's death. In 1847, he was named head of the painting workshop, and in 1871 Director of the manufacturing plant.

Inclined by training and temperament toward endeavours that brought together the fields of painting and chemistry, Robert was among the earliest French artists to take up paper photography, around 1850. After Regnault - an important chemist and pioneering photographer - became director of the porcelain factory in 1852, his photographic activity intensified, no doubt because the two men experimented together and encouraged each others' work. In 1852-53 Robert travelled through Brittany from where he brought back a series of calotypes, which would be printed as lithographs by Emile Van Marcke to illustrate an atlas published in 1855. In 1853, Blanquart-Evrard edited an album entitled souvenirs de Versailles entirely illustrated by 13 of Robert's calotypes. After travelling, he settled to practice photography at Sevres itself where he was particularly inclined to glass plate negatives.

In addition to the talented designers, artisans, and chemists who produced elaborate creations at the Royal Porcelain Factory, the village of Sèvres on the outskirts of Paris attracted the naturalist painters Troyon, Daubigny, and Corot, who came to sketch picturesque scenes along the banks of the Seine and in the nearby forest. Robert knew them and, no doubt, drew inspiration from their paintings and drawings. Working with other photographers including Regnault and Emile Beranger he made landscapes, still life studies and portraits of his entourage. Still lifes included the products of the porcelain factory and landscapes included the nearby gardens of Versailles and Saint-Cloud. The extent of his ingenuity is best illustrated by the numerous forms his paper negatives took: whey and albumen, wet, dry and waxed, amongst others. The photographic prints were equally wide-ranging in their variety. They could be cropped, enhanced or subdued and are as engaging as his original negatives. Guy Watelin, a direct descendant of Robert, remarks that the photographs possess a "charm, an atmosphere and a precision of composition that give a pleasing impression of flawlessness." Robert also took up a commissioned series of architectural studies of Brittany and a group of views made at Romesnil in Normandy.

Until recently only about forty images by Robert were known and most of these belonged to his heirs but as a result of the research of scholars, including Sam Stourdze, more than seventy works can now be attributed to the photographer. He was one of the founding members of the SFP in 1855.

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