Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Robinson: From Protégés to Mentor

Theodore Robinson was an American impressionist who was greatly influenced by the French impressionist Claude Monet. In two articles about Robinson, the relationship Robinson developed with Monet is clear and defined. There is no one who would argue that Monet did not have a significant impact on Robinson; however, the first article claims that Robinson eventually became a mentor himself when he returned to America. The second article, however, does not make any mention of Robinson becoming a mentor even though the second article is based on Robinson’s own diary. There are most definitely differences in the tow articles; however, it seams that the second article irresponsibly ignores the fact that Robinson went on to become a mentor himself.

According to the article Lessons Learned: Monet’s Influence on Robinson by Stephen May, there were nearly 60 paintings at a traveling art show that showed the similarities between the two artists. This article focuses on the fact that Robinson eventually became a mentor himself as a result of his relationship with Monet. During his six visits to Germany, Robinson developed a friendship in which they frequently dined together and critiqued each other’s work. Stephen May notes that this was an unusual friendship because Monet did not usually associate with the many American artists who sought his advice. As their friendship developed, Monet asked Robinson to critique his early paintings in the Rouen Cathedral series. This series had such a great impact on Robinson that he decided to paint three landscapes known as the Valley of the Seine. Monet called this series the best landscape he’d seen out of Robinson. One of the most important influences Monet had over Robinson was convincing Robinson to find subjects in America and “devote (his) efforts to immortalizing them.”

After Robinson last saw Monet in 1892, he became a mentor to an artist named Jacques Busbee. The article justifies the relationship between Robinson and Busbee by citing a passage from Robinson’s diary where Busbee is mentioned. Passing on Monet’s advice, Robinson advised Busbee to focus on the wide-ranging picture rather than obsessing over the details. Robinson also stressed the importance of drawing as a foundation for painting. He advised Busbee to focus on making sketches with charcoal, pencil, or crayon before attempting to paint. This he said, “…is necessary for all art-even the most evanescent or amusing, vivacious, or non-serious.” Like Monet, Robinson above all stressed the importance of paining subjects that are of interest and not to make work a “grind”. It is not clear from the article what the extent of Robinson’s relationship with Busbee was. Nevertheless, this author of this article thought their relationship was worth mentioning, most likely because it demonstrates how Monet’s style was spread to great American artists.

Another article, The Diary of Theodore Robinson, an American Impressionist by Sona Johnston summarizes the relationship between Robinson and Monet by making use of Robinson’s diary as its primary source. Unlike the first article, this article does not imply that Monet was not very receptive to American artists. Robinson said that he was “most cordially received” during their first encounter. This article also implies that their relationship was in fact very intimate. Their relationship must have been intimate because Robinson was a guest at Monet’s wedding. Like the first article, this article makes it very clear that Robinson was greatly influenced by Monet’s impressionist style. The two artists were so similar that people claimed they both left their paintings unfinished. The most striking feature about this article is the fact that it makes no mention of Robinson being a mentor to the artist Jacques Busbee. While the first article stresses that Robinson took Monet’s teaching back to American and became a mentor himself, this article makes no mention of Robinson’s relationships with any protégées he may or may not have had. Seeing as how this article is based on his diary, it would be safe to assume that the important aspects of his life were addressed in this article. Perhaps that article chose not to address Robinson’s influence on other artists, or perhaps Robinson did not consider himself to be a mentor. Given the tone of the first article, that is not likely. The first article made it very clear that the relationship between Robinson and Busbee was that of a mentor and a protégés.

After reading each article, there is no question that Robinson developed a serious relationship with Monet. Furthermore, it is clear that Monet’s advice followed Robinson back to America where Robinson attempted to find beauty in his American subjects. In the first article, it is implied that Robinson eventually became a mentor himself, in the same way that Monet was a mentor to him. The second article, which relies on a first hand account of Robinson’s life, his diary, does not make any mention of Robinson becoming a mentor himself.

No comments: