"Manuel Robbe lived in Paris all his life, creating images that echoed the polished splendour of the Belle Epoque. He exhibited often at the Salons, first at the Societe des Artistes Francais (winning a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1900) and after 1905 at the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts. A master of colour aquatint, his work in this medium is characterised by stylish figures in settings with large areas of black or grey punctuated by splashes of shimmering pastels. As the turn of the century critic Gabriel Moury noted, Robbe's favourite subject was the "modern woman:" her costumes and activities and the visual elegance of her world.
Absorbing the influence of Impressionism, particularly Renoir, Robbe applied a sensitive painterly touch to techniques that fit with the new paradigm of mass production. He designed and printed posters for corsets and bicycles, seeing, like Toulouse-Lautrec, the artistic potential of the new commercial era. He also created illustrations for humourous magazines and made coloured etchings of the works of contemporary artists. He was a favourite artist of the celebrated Parisian print publisher Edmond Sagot, who promoted his work.
Robbe was a pioneer of the "à la poupée" process, enabling an artist to print multiple colours from a single plate. He invented his own engraving technique known as “sugar-life,” using a mixture of sugar, India ink and gum Arabic on Zinc plates. The plates were heated, intricately worked and colour was applied with brushes made of rags; Robbe then used his own fingers to perfect the tones. Such technical mastery allowed Robbe to make each image unique, imbued with a lushness and immediacy befitting of the era in which he lived."