DescriptionHUGO ROBUS (American, 1885-1964)
The Sleeper, circa 1914-15
Oil on canvas
32 x 26 inches (81.3 x 66.0 cm)
Signed lower left: Robus
PROPERTY FROM THE KING COLLECTION, TEXAS
Estate of the above;
Forum Gallery, New York;
Acquired by the present owner from the above, June 2007.
Forum Gallery, New York, "Hugo Robus: Sculpture and Paintings," May 10-June 22, 2007;
Park Avenue Armory Show, New York, "Modernism," November 17-20, 1994;
El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, "Modern American Painting 1907-1936: The Maria and Barry King Collection," September 8, 2013-January 5, 2014, no. 40.
Forum Gallery, New York, "Hugo Robus: Sculpture and Paintings," exhibition catalogue, New York, 2007, n.p., illustrated;
P.S. Cable, Modern American Painting 1907-1936: The Maria and Barry King Collection, exhibition catalogue, El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, 2013, pp. 110-12, no. 40, illustrated;
In Hugo Robus' The Sleeper, contrasting colors and geometric facets allow the viewer to see several viewpoints of the subject at once, an innovative process that effects a sensuous and visceral experience. This concept of "mobile perspective" is clearly evocative of the European Orphists and the School of Simultaneity, in particular, the paintings of Robert Delaunay. In The Sleeper, Robus displays a dazzling grasp of three-dimensional form, leading the way to a highly creative and successful career as a sculptor.
Born in Cleveland, the sculptor and painter Hugo Robus studied at the Cleveland School of Art from 1904-1907, and at the National Academy of Design in New York from 1907-1909. One of his earliest modern inspirations was his discovery of sketches on view at Stieglitz's 291 gallery by the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin, who would remain an enduring influence. In early 1912 Robus left for Paris, where he studied until 1914 with Emile-Antoine Bourdelle (a previous assistant to Rodin) at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. While in Paris the artist visited the 1912 Futurist exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, and he attended the famous Saturday evening salons at Gertrude and Leo Stein at 27 rue de Fleurus. By 1913 he became acquainted with fellow American expatriates and Synchromists Morgan Russell and Stanton MacDonald-Wright, as well as the pioneer European abstract painter Frantisek Kupka. The impending war prompted Robus to leave in May 1914 for New York, where he located his studio in Greenwich Village. Soon after his return to the United States he spent time traveling between his native Cleveland and California, and in November 1914 the artist had his first solo exhibition at the Gage Gallery of Fine Arts in Cleveland, Paintings from Europe and California. Dissatisfied with his painting, Robus devoted himself from 1920 onwards to modernist figural sculpture, in which he focused on the female body abstracted with flowing graceful contours and polished surfaces, and lengthened or distorted to suggest movement.
"[The Sleeper and Bathers (lot 68025)], ranging in date from about 1914 to 1917, provide an illustrative range of the Cubist, Futurist, and Synchromist explorations that occupied the artist following his return to New York and up until the time he forsook painting for sculpture. Notably, the most successful are [his] works that focus on the female nude, which would become the central subject of the mature artist's sculpture...Stylistically, The Sleeper is the picture closest to Synchromism, but here the artist has utilized Synchromist elements to his own figural ends, creating a modern Michelangelesque body whose powerful forms and expressive pose are convincingly evoked by the diaphanous diamond facets flickering over and around it. Bathers likewise looks to the artist's sculpture, though in different ways. The broad smooth curves of the figures and sense of flowing movement in, between, and around them develop Robus's Futurist concerns into a new idiom that would be extended into his sculptural oeuvre. Noteworthy is the inherent sense of monumentality that these simplified, yet lush athletic forms possess as they occupy the curved niches and overall space of the small canvas. One might compare their simultaneous grace and strength with the same features found in certain nudes by Arthur B. Davies or in the vigorous forms the great master Matisse would paint fifteen years later in his versions of the mural Dance" (P.S. Cable, Modern American Painting 1907-1936: The Maria and Barry King Collection, exhibition catalogue, El Paso, Texas, 2013, pp. 110-12).
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000.
This painting is framed using Optium (museum acrylic glazing), which provides clear legibility for examination with both white light and black light. In order to maintain the integrity and airtight sealing of the housing, the painting was not viewed out of the frame for the condition report. Should you wish to have a more extensive report, we recommend firsthand inspection by a professional conservator. For assistance, please contact the department.
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