The late Robert Stoppenbach.

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Robert was born in 1948 and moved to Paris in the late 1960s. He first worked at the Yoshii Gallery, Avenue Matignon, before moving to London where he settled and worked for Victor Waddington.

Together with François, my father, they started the gallery Stoppenbach & Delestre in 1982, in London at 25 Cork Street.

Through their nearly 40 years’ history they have championed French 19th and 20th-century art worldwide, working with museums and institutions setting up high-quality exhibitions and providing expertise on artists of this period.

I have known Robert since I was a kid. I so well remember him with a smile, taking me around the booth or the gallery with warm attention.

Much-valued relationship

That was the start of a much-valued relationship, and his trust and confidence gave me confidence to continue a career in art. During the TEFAF art fair in 2007, as a 17-year-old intern, Bob introduced me to collectors and friends, helping me overcome my shyness. I had never worked for a gallery, and he made feel empowered.

After I joined the gallery in 2018, I had the great pleasure to work with him on an everyday basis. A soft-spoken person – a rare quality in the art world – Robert was highly knowledgeable about art. Bypassing trends, or periods, we often discussed Classical, Modern and Contemporary art.

Robert was indeed highly supportive of my first Contemporary project at the gallery and helped me in organising and setting up the show. On the day of the opening he even surprised me by introducing the work of the artists exhibited to visitors. I believe that he revelled in talking about art, connecting with the youth, and was pleased to see the gallery entering a new chapter. He also supported artists in their early careers such as Merlin James or John Lessore in the 1980s.

Derain exhibition

I am so glad to have worked with him on our André Derain show earlier this year. I remembered going to the storage with him and seeing the collection of drawings, sketches, letters and archives, preparing the catalogue or going through black and white images such as Derain in his Bugatti or during the war.

Robert’s expansive knowledge of the artist amazed me. His passion was an outstanding example of careful and continuous dedication in the art world’s current state. His stories about the Derain family and his detailed explanations on the evolution of the artist’s style gave me a better sense of the artist’s role in Modern art.

Robert often joked about the art market and its trends, and sometimes wandered on other topics such as the old Cork Street parties; the stories about the Robert Schmit gallery; his father-in-law, the expert Michel Kellerman; or his great-grandfather the dealer Leonard Van Leer who supported Modern artists in the early 20th century.

These stories are undeniable records of the then art world and its evolution. It makes us reflect and think back on time passed.

The last time we met was for our lovely Christmas lunch with Ginnie, his wife, in the gallery. We chatted and looked back at the challenging year. Bob was a gentle, humble, and warm-hearted person. We will miss him dearly.

From Adrien Delestre