The last artist viewers encounter on exiting the exhibition “The Museum as Muse: Artists Reflect” is the eighteenth-century French painter Hubert Robert (1733–1808). During his lifetime, Robert achieved renown for his paintings of architectural ruins, a niche in which he displayed an academician’s proficiency and a modicum of melodrama. His lasting influence in the arts was not as a painter, however, but as Garde du Musoeum of the Louvre. Helping to shape, inventory, and install the museum’s collection, Robert took an operative role in the establishment of the Louvre as a public institution. (Robert even made the museum his home for a time.) His Imaginary View of the Grand Galerie in Ruins (1796) is a portrayal of the Louvre centuries hence. This picture of physical and cultural devastation, complete with eminent works of sculpture scattered amongst the rubble, was, one imagines, something of a lark for a painter...

 
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