Theodore Robinson was born in Irasburg, Vermont. He moved with his family to the Midwest in 1855, eventually settling in Evansville, Wisconsin. At the age of eighteen Theodore went to Chicago to study art, and in 1874 he entered the National Academy of Design
in New York City. By 1876 he had traveled to Paris and worked in the ateliers of Carolus‑Duran (1837‑1917) and Jean Leon Gerome (1824‑1904), with brief trips to Grez, France, and Italy in 1879. While in Venice in the fall of 1879, he met James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834‑1903), who gave him a small oil sketch as a souvenir.
In 1879 he went back to New York and set up a studio on Broadway, but due to financial hardship had to return to Evansville in 1880. By 1881 he was again to New York, where he accepted a teaching position at Sylvanus Reed's School on the recommendation of his friend and fellow artist Will Low (1853‑1932). With Low he assisted in the studio of John La Farge (1835‑1910), who sent them to work on the Vanderbilt estate in Tarrytown, New York.
By 1884 Robinson returned to France and began painting landscapes for the first time. It was not until 1887, however, that he discovered Giverny while on an outing with Willard Metcalf (1858‑1925) and other American artists. Monsieur Baudy, the owner of the village cafe, built a small cottage and a studio for Metcalf, which thus began the art colony for Americans. In 1888 Robinson met Claude Monet (1840‑1926), who lived in seclusion at Giverny and took on very few artists as pupils; Robinson became his friend and viewed his famous Haystacks, The Poplars by the River Epte, and Rouen Cathedral series. His association with Monet was important to the development of Robinson's impressionist style, and between 1886 and 1892 he returned to Giverny several times.
In 1892 Robinson returned to America permanently and established himself in New York. He sent work to the annual exhibitions of the Society of American Artists and the American Water Color Society as well as to shows at the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In 1894 he discovered the coastal Connecticut town of Cos Cob which allowed him to return to his New England roots. He died two years later from an acute asthma attack, an early death at age forty‑four.
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