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 Tony Robert-Fleury  (1837 - 1911)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: painting, lithography, teaching

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Tony Robert Fleury is primarily known as Tony Robert-Fleury

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The painter and lithographer Joseph-Nicolas-Robert Fleury, who came to be called Robert-Fleury (1797-1890) was the father of our painter Tony Robert-Fleury.  Tony, born in Paris on the first day of September 1837, studied under Paul Delaroche and Léon Cogniet, then made his debut at the Salon of 1864.  He rose rapidly up the academic ladder of success to become a commandeur of the Legion of Honor and spent most of his time as a professor at the Académie Julian, mainly teaching women.  Robert-Fleury was a popular and good-natured teacher who “seldom, if ever, utters a harsh criticism.” (Belloc, 1890, pp. 375-376). Cecilia Beaux wrote of her encounter with this “young-middle-aged and very handsome man, with a face in which there were deep marks of disappointment; his eyes deeply set, smouldered with burnt-out fires.” His reaction to Beaux’s work was to quote Corneille; only when the entire class rushed to her side after the maître departed, did Beaux realize he had given her extreme praise (Beaux, 1930, pp. 118-119).

The Russian-born sensation Marie Bashkirtseff (1860-1884) wrote extensively of Robert-Fleury in her diary (Bashkirtseff, 1890), beginning in 1877.  He encouraged her from the beginning, assuring her “you have extraordinary talent. . . . You will be one of the best of the pupils, among the strongest. . . .” Bashkirtseff, who became Robert-Fleury’s “pet student,” declared that he was “an excellent professor, he leads you on step by step, so that you feel the progress that you make at each step.”  By 1880, Marie referred to her teacher as Tony: “What a good fellow is Tony.” (1890, pp. 410, 473).  She mentioned that he had an enemy who influenced the journalist Albert Wolff of the Figaro, to criticize him.  We also learn that Robert-Fleury did touch-ups on his students’ works.  In 1882, Bashkirtseff met Bastien-Lepage and Carolus-Duran, painters of a certain realism that appealed to her. Surely many were saddened by her untimely death at the age of twenty-four.

Other American pupils of Robert-Fleury include Louis Paul Dessar, Julius Rolshoven, Ellen Maria Carpenter (1836- ca. 1909), and Robert Henri.  The latter also found Robert-Fleury to be encouraging; he recommended him for study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  Both Robert-Fleury and Bouguereau, however, scolded Henri for using too much violet (Homer, 1969, p. 60).  As an artist, Robert-Fleury was typically eclectic.  The Last Days of Corinth (Musée d’Orsay), perhaps his masterpiece, won a medal of honor at the Salon of 1870.  In its severe neoclassicism, this painting could pass for a work of any of Jacques-Louis David’s students, despite its late date of execution.  On the other hand, By the Fireside (Salon of 1897) is a half-length portrait of a woman of leisure with an insipid expression, before her pet parrot: an example of the Salon genre made popular by Alfred Stevens, which became the mainstay of the Boston School.  A Requisition in the Reign of Terror, exhibited in 1900 at the Exposition Universelle, is within the new trend of historical genre painting.  Athena S. E. Leoussi (2000) discovered a late style of Robert-Fleury in which he turned both to realism and impressionism. The painter-teacher died in Paris, on 8 December 1911.


D’Igny, Pierre. “The Salon Forty,” Arts and Letters 2 (June 1888): 358-359;

Bashkirtseff, Marie, Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff. Chicago: Rand, McNally and Co., 1890;

Eaton, D. Cady, A Handbook of Modern French Painting. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1909, pp. 324-325;

Saunier, Charles, “Tony Robert-Fleury,” Les Arts 123 (1912): 25-32;

Beaux, Cecilia, Background with Figures: Autobiography of Cecilia Beaux. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1930, pp. 118-119;

Homer, William Innes, Robert Henri and His Circle. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969, pp. 42, 60;

Perlman, Bennard, Robert Henri: His Life and Art. New York: Dover Publications, 1991, pp. 13-14, 17, 20, 23;

Weinberg, H. Barbara, The Lure of Paris: Nineteenth-Century American Painters and Their French Teachers. New York: Abbeville Press, 1991, pp. 70, 222-224, 226, 250-253, 255-258;

Athena S. E. Leoussi, in From Monet to Cézanne, The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000, pp. 361-362.    

Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.

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