Charles Dormon Robinson (American, 1847-1933)
Crests of the Sierra, 1909
Oil on canvas 42 in. x 81 in. (106.68 cm x 205.74 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Lillian M. Robinson, conserved with funds provided by Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., North Point Gallery, San Francisco1950.18
Charles Dormon Robinson was a second-generation California landscape painter who introduced human scale into his grandiose and majestic depictions of nature. Even though Yosemite and the Sierra were among his most frequent subjects, he was inspired by French Barbizon painters, who used expressive brushwork to paint quiet, intimate views of a peopled nature. His large Crests of the Sierra focuses equal attention on the human activity in the foreground and the peaks in the distance.
Robinson was born in East Monmouth, Maine, but his family moved to California while he was a toddler. He began his art training with Charles Christian Nahl at the very young age of seven. In 1861, he and his mother returned to the East where he studied with George Inness and William Bradford. He also studied briefly with Jasper Cropsey and received criticism from Albert Bierstadt and James Hamilton.
Following his marriage in Ohio in 1874, Robinson returned to California. Settling in San Francisco, he began re-touching photographs and illustrating periodicals, but soon devoted his full time to painting. He quickly became a prominent member of the San Francisco art community, joining the Palette and Bohemian Clubs. He visited Yosemite for the first time in 1880 and summered there for twenty-four years. Many of his paintings were destroyed by the fire following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; others were lost in 1921 when another fire destroyed his home.