Plein Air Heritage: Theodore Robinson (1852-1896)
Theodore Robinson painting outdoors around 1872 with Canadian painter William Blair Bruce (1859-1906)

As a plein air painter, you are part of one of the largest art movements in history. Learn about those who have helped start this movement in some way, and be inspired to continue your own journey.

Plein Air Heritage: Theodore Robinson (1852-1896)

The American artist Theodore Robinson had a celebrated, successful career as a painter, teacher, and school founder, and was a friend of Claude Monet and one of the first American Impressionists. By the spring of 1884, he had earned enough money to make Paris his home base, and in 1887 he began the first of many sojourns to Giverny, where he painted alongside Monet.

As this photograph shows, Robinson was an active plein air painter who was strongly influenced by European artists. He made a number of trips back to New York, where he maintained friendships with John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) and J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), and through them he served as a conduit for the dissemination of Impressionist precepts in the United States.

To supplement his income, Robinson taught art classes in Brooklyn, New York; in various locations in New Jersey; and in his own summer classes in Napanoch, New York. Despite the fact that he was shy and insecure, he proved to be a popular plein air teacher who had firsthand knowledge of how European artists responded directly to nature.

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  1. Regarding the photo of William Blair Bruce with Theodore Robinson… If it is circa 1872, that would make Mr. Bruce thirteen years old. I’m not so sure he is that young in the photo… Could I be right?


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