At the time I was writing about Edward G. Robinson and collecting just last Wednesday I bumped into what I had supposed would be a slim volume about Robinson's collection of fine art titled Edward G. Robinson's World Of Art. I ordered it Wednesday, it arrived Saturday. In a larger than expected envelope.
Yes, Edward G. Robinson's World of Art is just the 117 pages I had expected it to be, but while I had anticipated something little better than a pamphlet in form, what I actually received was a handsome hardcover book with dust jacket. It was also quite a bit larger than I had expected. 8-1/4" X 10-3/8" to be exact.
And while there is a lot of white space inside what does fill the pages is beautiful. Every piece from Edward G. Robinson's rebuilt second collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings is displayed in full color.
Each painting is afforded its own page with text information on the facing page including a brief biography of the artist, stats such as the date each painting was done and its size. Also included is a listing of the provenance of each painting, that is, previous owners and possessors.
Accompanying these beautiful pictures are two brief essays and a copy of a speech Robinson himself gave about art in 1971, the same year that this volume was originally published.
Robinson's friend, Leonard Spigelgass, who you might remember as the editor of and contributor to Robinson's autobiography All My Yesterdays, has a short article called "Some Notes on a Friend" at the front of the volume. Here, just a couple of years before All My Yesterdays was published, Spiegelgass basically gives us the short version of his Robinson biography.
After viewing all of the portraits of Robinson's collection there is a slightly longer section titled "Some Notes on a Husband" by Edward G. Robsinon's second wife, Jane Robinson.
Mrs. Robinson discusses the lessons her husband taught her about art as well as some of Robinson's own ideas about collecting, a couple of which are excerpted below. Following that essay is a section reproducing some paintings done by Edward G. Robinson's own hand including a couple of self-portraits, one of which also adorns the cover the Edward G. Robinson's World of Art as is shown at the top of this page.
Finally the Epilogue is a reproduction of a speech given by Edward G. Robinson on June 1, 1971 for the American Booksellers Association. It is four pages long.
Robinson opens his speech by discussing what a surprise the book itself was for him as his wife and others undertook the project without his knowledge. More relevant here, Robinson also talks about some of his collecting memories including his continued assertion that he is no longer actually a collector anymore.
This section also includes what is beginning to take on the appearance of his standard line about "the Edward G. Robinson Collection of Rare Cigar Bands." He used that one in this speech and in at least two others mentioned in my previous article.
Robinson is a bit more specific about his card collecting in the ABA speech:
"And then came cigarette card, big-league baseball players. I was an insatiable fiend, and would cheerfully trade your three Indian Joes for one of that upstart newcomer Ty Cobb.
"When I got my first long pants, and sex reared its lovely head, I switched to those never-to-be-forgotten color cards of the soubrettes, the great and beautiful ladies of the stage and music halls, Lily Langtry, Lotta Crabtree, Lillian Russell, Bessie Barriscale--they don't have names like that anymore. Or chests either" (114).
Robinson then moves the conversation back towards fine art:
"Ah yes, I remember well what it was like to be a true collector, that soft explosion in the heart, that thundering inner 'yes' when you see something you must have or die" (114).
The section by Jane Robinson includes a handful of small photos of the Robinson house showing their gallery, her husband's own studio, plus other areas of interest including Robinson's collection of pipes and canes and a very impressive book case. According to Jane Robinson her husband didn't read fiction, he got his fill of that through his work, preferring biographies and books about politics and social commentary.
Jane Robinson wrote that her husband would be both "amused and bemused" when peppered with questions about collecting as an investment. Edward G. Robinson, she wrote, felt that "The love of a picture is so personal that you must do your own thing," adding that one could spend fifty dollars on a piece and wait ten years for it to be worth more or, at the other end of the spectrum, possibly nothing. It doesn't matter as long as you like it.
Jane Robinson comments that collecting is "both a dread disease and a love affair," before attributing the following quote about collecting to Edward G. Robinson:
"Yes, a love affair and a rewarding one, even if it takes over your house, your family, your income, and your life. In time it becomes like the drug habit, you cannot live without it. Your walls may be bulging with paintings, business may be bad and prospects none too good; baby needs a pair of shoes; and you've sworn off buying. But you make an exception--just once--and there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to have the picture. there's no cure for it. Fact is you don't want to be cured ..." (95).
Edward G. Robinson's World of Art is out of print and readily available at prices more associated with Used Books than Collectible volumes (I paid just $1 and change plus shipping for mine). It's available HERE on Amazon.com, which I should point out is an affiliate link, as is the link for the book above.
This title is a must for any fan of classic cinema who also has an appreciation for fine art. Additionally a must for Robinson fans, especially those who've read All My Yesterdays as Edward G. Robinson's World of Art will show you many of the paintings that are only told about in that book.
Robinson, Jane. Edward G. Robinson's World Of Art. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1971.
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When I was young my neighbor who was a sculptor knew Mr. Robison.
I got to see a bust of Edward G. Robison that he was making for him.
Cliff Aliperti says
That’s neat, thanks for sharing! Hopefully that bust in on display, at least in somebody’s home, today.
Steven B. Ridge says
Just a few days ago, I finished reading E.G.R.’s autobiography, “ALL MY YESTERDAYS.” Terrific book. And that definitely interests me in reading more about his art collections. So I’m going to try to get ahold of this book.
And reading about him also reminded me I hadn’t been on your site in a while; I made some posts a year ago and haven’t really visited since then, but I’m gonna try not to be a stranger anymore; I really love reading your reviews 🙂
I was just wondering, is there any place where I can find the complete list of all of the paintings Robinson owned, in the both his first collection (i.e. pre-divorce) and his second collection (i.e. post-divorce)?
Once I know the names of the paintings, I can always Google the name of the painting and view it online. But I’d like to know if there is a way to get a complete list of all the paintings Robinson owned in both collections.
Robert Beck says
Sir, did you ever find a listing of the Robinson paintings? If not, let me refer you to my book, The Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia, McFarland & Co., publishers, which lists over 40 artists, mainly French Impressionists whose works were in his collection over the years. All the best!