Futures & Ruins: Eighteenth-century Paris and the Art of Hubert Robert
In this timely and provocative study, Hubert Robert's paintings of urban ruins are interpreted as manifestations of a new consciousness of time, one shaped by the uncertainties of an economy characterized by the dread-inducing expansion of credit, frenzied speculation on the stock exchange, and bold ventures in real estate. As the favored artist of an enterprising Parisian elite, Robert is a prophetic case study of the intersections between aesthetics and modernity's dawning business culture.
At the center of this lively narrative lie Robert's depictions of the ruins of Paris--macabre and spectacular paintings of fires and demolitions created on the eve of the French Revolution. Drawing on a vast range of materials, Futures & Ruins understands these artworks as harbingers of a modern appetite for destruction. The paintings are examined as expressions of the pleasures and perils of a risk economy. This captivating account--lavishly illustrated with rarely reproduced objects--recovers the critical significance of the eighteenth-century cult of ruins and of Robert's art for our times.