Artist Biography

Charles Dormon ROBINSON
1847 - 1933

Charles Dormon Robinson was born in East Monmouth, Maine on July 17, 1847. The Robinson family moved to Newport, Vermont shortly after the birth of Charles Dormon. In 1848 his father migrated to California followed by mother and child two years later. His father, Dr. David G. Robinson, was a theatrical producer and playwright who was responsible for constructing San Francisco's first theaters and the plays for their stages. The senior Robinson was a member of the Vigilance Committee and was forced to leave San Francisco in 1857 due to reprisal from the criminal element. Wife and child were left without a means of support and had to shift for themselves. The younger Robinson loved the ships passing through the Golden Gate and began sketching them at an early age. His first art training was at age seven in the studio of Charles Christian Nahl. At age thirteen he was presented with a diploma from the Mechanics' Institute for best marine drawing in the juvenile department. In 1861 he and his mother returned to the East where he studied with artists William Bradford and George Inness. He also studied briefly with F. R. Gignoux, Jasper Cropsey, and received criticism from Bierstadt and James Hamilton. Yearning for California, he started west but stopped in Clinton, Ohio where he married Kathryn Evelyn Wright in 1874. Settling in San Francisco, he worked re-touching photographs and for awhile had his own business in Alameda. Both he and his wife wrote and illustrated for Century and Overland Monthly publications. By 1875 Robinson was devoting full time to painting. He had his first showing at the San Francisco Art Ass'n in 1876, and recognition as a first-rate marine painter came in 1878 at the Sacramento State Fair where he won all prizes and sold one of his paintings to Governor Booth. In 1880 he visited Yosemite for the first time and subsequently spent 24 summers there. One painting, sold there to a British noble, was presented to Queen Victoria and hung in Buckingham Palace, and the King of Siam bought one of his oils while visiting San Francisco. During 1899-1901 he further studied with Boudin and Sagantini in Paris. At the time of the 1906 disaster he and his family were living in San Francisco at 1633 Laguna. He had moved most of his paintings to a warehouse for safe keeping; however, the building burned destroying a great portion of his earlier works. Once again fire destroyed their home in 1921 taking with it 20 years of his Yosemite works. A prolific plein air painter, Robinson followed in the tradition of the Hudson River School. He died on May 8, 1933 in San Rafael, California. Member: San Francisco Palette Club(cofounder & first secretary.); San Francisco Art Ass'n; Bohemian Club. Exhibited: Sacramento Agricultural Society, 1878, 1903 (gold medal); California Midwinter International Expo, 1894; Mark Hopkins Art Institute, 1897; Bohemian Club, from 1897; Gump's, 1900; California State Fair, 1930. Works held: Maritime Museum (San Francisco); Crocker Museum (Sacramento); California Historical Society; Oakland Museum; Bohemian Club; Society of California Pioneers; De Young Museum; Nevada Museum (Reno); Wawona Hotel (Yosemite); Orange County (CA) Museum.

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