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George Robertson ( 1810 - 1894 )  Category ( Painters ) [suggest a correction]
 

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1810, George Robertson was a painter of portraits and landscapes.  His father was a Presbyterian minister, and he undertook study of art at the Royal Academy of Arts in London between 1826 and 1936. He was a regular exhibitor during this period, and was acquainted with prominent English artists, such as John Constable. He immigrated to the United States in 1842 and worked in Ohio and Wisconsin before finally settling in Rockford, Illinois. At that time he was considered primarily a portrait painter, and is listed in the Rockford city directory as such. Some critics say that he was likely Rockford's first professional artist.

Robertson served as the art department head at the Rockford Female Seminary School, which is now Rockford College. He remained at Rockford College as a professor until he retired in 1885, though he continued to paint until giving up his studio in 1890. Through his position at Rockford College he was able to bring European academic training to the young American nation, and thus served as a key figure in the region's cultural development. He also joined the Rockford Sketch Club and showed his work at their first exhibition in 1888.During the nineteenth century, the American mid-west became something of a Mecca for academically trained European artists, especially landscape and portrait artists. Members of the lively regional arts community, including Robertson, helped to popularize panorama paintings, which were produced by a team of artists, with the idea of large, commercial exhibitions around the United States.

Of particular interest during this period were depictions of American Civil War battles. The genre was first popularized in Europe following the Franco-Prussian war. Robertson contributed more to the civic style of landscape art by painting a number of views of Rockford, which provided an invaluable documentation of the city's growth. In keeping with British tradition as well as his interest in landscape, Robertson provides in his portraits a bucolic landscape, punctuated by flower beds, trees, or sweeping vistas. He was also known for capturing the personality of the sitter by employing subtle, artistic hints. The artist, Sydney Janis Yard studied under Robertson during the 1870s, before embarking on a career in Europe and later, in California. Scottish artist Bernard Isaac Durward, who immigrated to Wisconsin, was a colleague of Robertson's, and the latter was instrumental in helping Durward become established in the United States. For some years they even shared a studio, and attempted to establish an Academy of Fine Arts, though they got no further than drawing up incorporation papers.


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