Robert Reid 1862-1929

The Man in the Moon

  • 36 x 30 inches (91.4 x 76.2 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower left

Why We Love It

An important American Impressionist and one of “The Ten”, Robert Reid was known for his decorative paintings of attractive young women with flowers. While this work differs slightly from his typical subject matter, this haunting picture stands out as a very fine example of the artist’s style and a remarkable work of American Impressionism.

The Value

Highly finished, large figurative paintings like this one are quite rare for Robert Reid, making it an important and wonderful acquisition. The condition of the painting is excellent and we put it in a very fine Eli Wilner frame.  The work presents as an exceptional example of Reid’s best work.

Artist Background

1862: Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; 1884: Studied at the Art Students League in New York; 1885-89: Studied at the Academie Julian in Paris; 1892: Received commission to decorate one of the pavilions in the Liberal Arts Building for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago; 1897: Helped found the Ten American Painters, a group of Impressionists who rebelled against traditionalism; 1900: Completed mural for the American Pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exposition; 1915: Completed mural for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco; 1920-27: Moved to Colorado Springs and taught at the Broadmoor Academy; 1927: Left partially paralyzed by a stroke and spent the last years of his life in a New York State sanitarium, where he learned to paint with his left hand; 1929: Died in Clifton Springs, New York.

Robert Reid was an American Impressionist and the youngest member of the Ten American Painters. He was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1862, and at the age of eighteen, he entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He studied there until 1884, also serving as an assistant instructor and the founding editor of the students’ journal, Art Student. In 1885, Reid travelled to New York and worked briefly at the Art Students League before moving on to Paris where he trained at the Academie Julian. He stayed in France for the next three years, studying and painting peasant genre scenes on the Normandy coast. Reid began to exhibit these genre paintings back home in 1889 with the Society of American Artists and the National Academy of Design.

During the 1890s, Reid underwent a “conversion” to the techniques of Impressionism. While it is difficult to pin-point precisely when this change took place, due to the scarcity of extant paintings by Reid from the early to mid-’90s, by the time he exhibited with the Ten in 1898, his work bore all the hallmarks of the impressionist style and had almost fully matured. Reid’s principal subject matter consisted of attractive young women with flowers; these works were highly decorative, painted with a bright, high-key color palette, using bold, ribbon-like brushstrokes. In many of these paintings, such as Fleur-de-Lys which was perhaps his most famous composition, the young woman appears to be almost embedded within the floral background so that the two elements become nearly indistinguishable.

This striking work, bearing the unusual title The Man in the Moon, differs from Reid’s more typical compositions and may suggest the influence of various members of the Ten. Instead of the chromatic brilliance often found in Reid’s paintings, this picture has an extremely limited palette, which seems reminiscent of some of Metcalf’s nocturnes, such as May Night from 1906. As in that famous picture, the main subject of the painting is bathed in a mysterious moonlit glow. However, unlike Metcalf’s masterpiece which focuses largely upon the surrounding landscape, Reid’s painting clearly prioritizes the young woman as the primary subject. She gazes out at the viewer, perhaps transfixed by the celestial light which illuminates the entire scene. Although this painting is somewhat unusual among Reid’s body of work, it certainly demonstrates his characteristically loose and sketchy brushwork; the background is blocked in rather broadly, while the figure is slightly more defined. This haunting picture is a fine example of the artist’s style as well as a remarkable work of American Impressionism.