For the Paris Exposition of 1900, American landscape painter Charles Dormon Robinson submitted a work measuring fifty by three hundred and eighty feet, and weighing five tons. The painting was rejected and the artist forced to cut the work into many pieces to sell for his passage home.
This would unfortunately set the tone for many years of the painter's life - disaster following disaster. Luckily he was remarkably popular and prolific and many of his paintings survive.
He was born in Maine in 1847. His father was a theatrical producer, staging shows in the mining towns of "Gold Rush" California. By 1850 the entire family had relocated to San Francisco to facilitate the father's work, and Robinson would begin his formal art training. He loved to sketch the city's harbor scenes and by the age of seven he was taking instruction from marine painter Charles Nahl. At the age of thirteen he was awarded a diploma from the Mechanics Institute.
By 1861 however his family was forced to return to the East Coast, settling in Vermont. Robinson immediately re-entered his studies and became a student of several area painters, including Impressionist George Inness.
He married in 1874, returning to San Francisco with his new wife, where they both quickly found work writing and illustrating for magazines such as the "Overland Monthly". By 1876 Robinson would begin to exhibit as a professional painter, making frequent painting excursions to Yosemite Valley for his subjects.
He traveled for a year to Paris, in 1899, but returned by 1901. He continued to paint dozens of scenes from the Yosemite area, but the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed most of his work. In 1921 a second fire, this time in his home, again destroyed twenty years of his Yosemite work.
Luckily he had enjoyed success in his career, as early as 1876 he had taken all of the medals at the Sacramento State Fair, and sold his work to the Governor. Additionally, his paintings of Yosemite were purchased by British nobility, with one canvas being delivered as a gift to Queen Victoria and proudly displayed in Buckingham Palace, while another was purchased by the King of Siam while visiting the painter's studio in San Francisco.
His "plein air" works would always show the influence of the Hudson River School artists, for their reliance on the effects of light and atmosphere in the scene, and his paintings are scene in both private and museum collections around the world.