The 'Draughtsman in the Ruins of the Palatine', an undated drawing by French artist Hubert Robert, must have been produced in Rome between 1760 and 1765. Without having completed the usual academic training in Paris, Robert had gone to Italy in 1754 at the age of twenty-one and had lived in Rome, the international art metropolis of the eighteenth century, for more than ten years until 1765. It was here that he became friends with Jean-Honoré Fragonard; and it was here, too, that he came under the influence of Giovanni Paolo Panini (1699-1765) and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) and produced his pictures of ruins and architecture, which soon attracted the attention of the collectors of early Classicism with their enthusiasm for antiquity. Robert created vedute of Rome - staged 'capricci' which owed as much to the artist's imagination as they did to reality, and which were frequently combined with witty genre scenes.
Hubert Robert left an extensive oeuvre of drawings. The old inventory of the Collection of Prints and Drawings includes outstanding watercolours and washed ink drawings. But it was only a few years ago that the Städel was able to acquire one of Robert's drawings in red chalk - a popular drawing material in the eighteenth century and one that Robert also favoured. With the soft stick of reddish-brown chalk, he was able to create rough, clay-like hatching to reproduce the mood of an atmosphere permeated by bright sunlight.
Robert has depicted a rough, rocky terrain in front of the ruins of an ancient wall with massive round arches. An uprooted tree trunk crosses the picture like an improvised bridge. Standing behind it, a ladder leads up to the proliferating scrub cascading down from the masonry. The draughtsmen who have positioned themselves in the foreground seem to be concentrating equally on the remnants of antiquity as well as on nature. The situation corresponds to the study of drawing as it was practised in Robert's day in the urban landscape of Rome and its surroundings, and as it was expressly required of scholarship holders in Rome under the then director of the Académie de France, Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700-1777).
The quality of his numerous paintings and drawings of landscapes with ruins earned Robert the title of "peintre des ruines", an epithet specially created for him after his return to Paris. It was as the "painter of ruins" that he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Art in Paris in 1766.
The Frankfurt businessman Dr. Kurt Möllgaard and his wife, Marga, began collecting modern art after 1945. From 1964 on they donated parts of their collection to the Städelscher Museums-Verein. Kurt Möllgaard commented on his actions: "We are consciously continuing a tradition which has been cultivated to a remarkable extent by those citizens of Frankfurt who were forced to leave their homes after 1933." In 1987, after the death of his wife and his son, Möllgaard founded the Kurt and Marga Möllgaard Foundation. Since then it has enabled the purchase of further artworks, primarily for the Collection of Prints and Drawings.