Manuel Robbe

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The prints of Manuel Robbe are valued for their wide-ranging palette and an imagery whose familiarity is often transcended by reportorial detail. Robbe's depictions of daily life – particularly of women shown in artists' studios, en promenade with a companion or child, or in intimate rendezvous – make him a leading chronicler of Belle Epoque society.

Born in Paris in 1872, Robbe produced his strongest work in the two decades immediately before and after 1900. Guided by the renowned printer Eugène Delâtre he mastered the intricacies of etching and aquatint, exhibiting by 1898 in the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Robbe soon became a leading artist of the celebrated Parisian publisher Edmond Sagot, who promoted him along with the young Jacques Villon. While Villon's work shows more the influence of late 19th century "japonisme", there is a notable similarity in their subject matter and aquatint technique.

Active in experimental printmaking methods, Robbe was an innovator of the à la poupée process of printing many colors from a single plate: colors are painted directly onto the plate before printing, giving each impression the appearance of a monoprint with uniquely varied coloring. Robbe's "painterly" aproach to printmaking, with its echoes of impressionism, is perfectly suited to the qualities of à la poupée aquatint.

Robbe produced over 200 aquatints and drypoints, as well as posters promoting bicycles and corsets. His work was widely admired, earning him invitations to exhibit at numerous Salons of the day and, in 1900, a Bronze Medal at the Exposition Universelle, Paris.

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