John Whitworth Robson (1881-1946)

  • John Whitworth Robson lived as an American artist in Paris from 1905-1909. He was a member of the American Art Association of Paris and exhibited at the Salon of the highly esteemed Societe des Artistes Francais. Robson experienced Paris at a very unique time, just as the Impressionists and Expressionists had left their indelible mark on the art world.

    Robson’s drawings and etchings beautifully capture the people and places of Turn-of-The-Century Paris in a manner reminiscent of Edgar Degas and Toulouse Lautrec. One of the highlights of the collection is an etching of Moulin Rouge singer and dancer, Yvette Guilbert, whom Lautrec adored and depicted in several of his own works. Robson, who had a reputation as a gregarious ladies man, met and became friends with Guilbert in 1906.

    Another highlight of the collection is a large nighttime scene of Paris from above with the Eiffel Tower in the distance executed in charcoal and created as a backdrop for Hollywood's version of "A mid summer's night dream". The group also includes scenes of Tunisia created during the traditional Grand Tour, which included visits to Italy and Spain, taken during this same Paris period.

    Robson returned to the U.S. in 1909, going first to New York and working as a commercial artist producing work for publications such as Metropolitan, Putnam’s Monthly, Pearson’s and others. Ultimately he settled in Los Angeles, opened a studio in the famed Wilcox Building, and began working with the movie industry as a commercial artist. Infamous female stunt pilot, Florence Lowe “Pancho” Barnes, worked with Howard Hughes on “Hell’s Angels” and later introduced him to Robson. During this time, Robson worked for Howard Hughes and Walt Disney. He was one of the key scene painters that worked on "The Wizard of Oz.” Robson was also hired to create portraits of Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Wallace Berry, Barbara Stanwyck and other studio celebrities. During his time in Hollywood he commonly went by the name "Jack Robson."

    Many years later, and shortly before his death in 1946, Robson became disillusioned with the movie studios, and at a personal low point destroyed nearly all of his paintings in the backyard incinerator. For decades it was believed his lifetime of work had been erased forever. Thankfully, this wasn’t entirely true. Recently his son Jack, who has continued to live in the family home all of these years, uncovered a treasure trove of works from Robson’s time in Paris. These pieces had been lost in the attic and saved from his fit of destruction. This collection at Lost Art Salon comes from this group of recently re-discovered works.

    John Whitworth Robson was born in Pennsylvania on May 1, 1881 and was the third son of Dr. John W. Robson and Cella Lewis Robson. He attended the exclusive Shady Side Academy, took classes at the well-regarded Graphic Sketch Club (founded by Samuel Fleisher) and studied under artist, Howard Pyle. He later graduated from the Yale School of Art.

    In Paris and New York, Robson studied under and became close friends with master etcher, Lester George Hornby (1882-1956). In New York the two worked together.

    When he returned to the United States in 1909 he lived at 159 E. 33rd St., New York and opened his studio at 58 North 24th St. In 1912 he moved his family to Los Angles and lived at 926 West Moreland Ave. John and his wife had two children, a boy (Jack) and a girl. Robson died in Los Angeles on October 8, 1946.

    Robson’s work is in the permanent collection of the Huntington Library (22 pieces) in Pasadena, CA and the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, CA. He is profiled in Davenport’s Art Reference, Who Was Who in American Art, and “Artists in California 1786-1940” by Edan Hughes.

    During his early career, Robson exhibited at the Shady Side Academy and Graphic Sketch Club, both in Philadelphia, The American Art Association, Paris and the Salon of the Societe des Artistes Francais, Paris. There are no known exhibits of his work after 1911.
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