Sourcing, documenting, interpreting and displaying difficult-to-access artworks and archival materials, Robert helps advance our understanding and appreciation of the personal, professional, socioeconomic and institutional forces that shape artistic heritage. A significant aspect of his research is concerned with the reassessment of artistic careers and the recuperation of traditional practices, especially printmakers that have been marginalized or neglected. His books are the principal sources of reference for curators, dealers, and general audiences. Robert was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 2000 in recognition of his contribution to the art of printmaking.
Several recent monographs and touring exhibitions have been co-researched, co-authored and co-curated with Dr Harry Heuser. These include three exhibitions with accompanying books and catalogues raisonné for the Royal Academy of Arts, London, examining the artworks and legacy of Royal Academician printmakers: Sydney Lee (2013), Stanley Anderson (2015), and Charles Tunnicliffe (2017). More than a record of past exhibitions, Harry and Robert’s catalogues raisonné now serve as standard references. They are currently working on an exhibition and book (with catalogue raisonné) of prints by Harry Morley (1881-1943) who, during the 1920s, was instrumental in reviving interest in traditional egg-tempera painting techniques as well as historic line engraving practices.
Harry and Robert have also published monographs on Welsh artists Gwilym Prichard and Claudia Williams (Sansom 2013 & 2014). Robert’s commitment to the visual culture of Wales is reflected in his monographs and touring retrospective exhibitions devoted to twentieth-century Welsh painters, among them George Chapman, John Elwyn, Gladys Vasey, and Christopher Williams.
Robert’s association with Gregynog Hall, Newtown, Powys, one time home of art collectors and philanthropists Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, spans almost five decades. As a schoolboy in south Wales he regularly visited to the National Museum in Cardiff where he would pore over the sisters’ bequests of Cézannes, Daumiers, Monets, Rodins and Van Gogh. As an undergraduate at Aberystwyth University, he first visited Gregynog in 1977. In subsequent years he served on the Editorial Board of Gwasg Gregynog (for which he designed two illustrated books), curated annual Music Festival exhibitions, and was University of Wales representative on the Gregynog Sub Committee. He has published widely on Gregynog and the Davies sisters as collectors, including a chapter on life at Gregynog between the wars for Things of Beauty (National Museum Wales, 2007). He curated the exhibition Gregynog Prints from Dürer to Augustus John which toured UK venues for three years. He is one of the five founding trustees of The Gregynog Trust which was established in June 2019.
Robert is acknowledged as the leading expert on Hugh Blaker – painter, author, dealer, connoisseur, and collector as well as art advisor to Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. His research on Blaker and the paintings at one time in his possession has led to the positive identification of a previously disputed portrait of Annie Bjarne by Amadeo Modigliani as well as new insights on a canvas recently discovered by the Louvre Museum to be St Joseph the Carpenter – a master work by French Baroque painter Georges de La Tour – and an earlier version of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa which Robert co-presented to the world press in Geneva in 2012 before it embarked on a world tour. In addition to video interviews for the exhibition, Robert contributed a book chapter ‘Hugh Blaker and the Old Masters: The Connoisseurship of the Man who Discovered the Earlier Mona Lisa’ published to coincide with the painting’s launch in Florence commemorating the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death (Fielding UP, 2019).