Albert Robinson, RCA, 1881-1956


Born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1881, Albert Henry Robinson began drawing as a young student.

After finishing high school, Albert Robinson took a job at the then Hamilton Times newspaper as an illustrator, drawing murders, accidents and other news events for $5 a week.

In his spare time, Albert Robinson studied at the Hamilton Art School under the artist John Gordon (who later married Hortense Mattice, better known as artist Hortense M. Gordon, a member of the Painters 11).

After several years at the newspaper, Albert Robinson had saved enough to travel in 1903 to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian, producing sufficiently high quality of work to gain entry into the Ecole des Beaux­Arts.

Montreal Painters

After a bout with typhoid, Albert Robinson returned to Hamilton, where John Gordon hired him to work as a studio assistant. He also taught life classes at the Hamilton Art School.

In 1906, Albert Robinson exhibited his paintings for the first time and sold his first oil painting to Ontario Lieut-Gov. J.M. Gibson.

About 1908, Albert Robinson met William Davis and his wife, who sponsored him to paint out of a studio in Montreal. Through the Davises, Albert Robinson met other artists and was soon on friendly terms with three important painters: Maurice Cullen, William Brymner, and Edmund Dyonnet.

Later, in 1910, Albert Robinson met A.Y. Jackson and they would become good friends. The pair sailed to Europe together to paint, particularly along the French coast.

After four months, Albert Robinson became homesick and short of money, so he left A.Y. Jackson to return to Montreal. The two artists did not meet again for several years.

Sampson-Matthews Silkscreen

When the First World War was declared, A.Y. Jackson went into the army and Albert Robinson to the war industry as inspector of munitions. Later, Albert Robinson was selected as artist for the Canadian War Memorials depicting activities of the Vickers Shipbuilding plant in Montreal. Many of his canvases are now in the Canadian war collections.

After the war, Albert Robinson joined A.Y. Jackson on sketching trips to picturesque villages along the St. Lawrence River. During his trip to Cacouna, Albert Robinson did the sketch for his painting Returning From Easter Mass 1922 (now in the AGO collection). Returning From Easter Mass was later selected to be reproduced for the Sampson-Matthews silkscreen project.

Some of Albert Robinson’s most famous paintings were based on scenes along the St. Lawrence, including many executed during the 1920s (most are now housed in public museums). His 1941 painting Moonlight Saint-Tite-Des-Caps is in the National Gallery of Canada.

Albert Robinson’s style has been liked to James Wilson Morrice, who also painted the lower St. Lawrence, and A.Y. Jackson. The Hamilton native also sketched with Clarence Gagnon, Edwin Holgate and Randolph Hewton.

National Gallery of Canada

Albert Robinson began to battle ill health in the late 1920s, and his health forced him into retirement by 1933. He had a successful solo show in 1926 but, because of his health, couldn’t produce enough new works for another show the year later.

The Art Gallery of Hamilton & National Gallery of Canada held a retrospective show in 1955, a year before the Canadian painter’s death in 1956 in Montreal.

Albert Robinson became an Associate Royal Canadian Academy (ARCA) member in 1911 and a RCA member in 1920.

His works are held in prestigious galleries across Canada, including in the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and in France.

Source:  A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker. National Gallery of Canada, Artists in Canada database.