This oil, painted by Regina Dorland Robinson of Jacksonville in 1916, is likely of Old Stage Road. Robinson was a well-respected artist with a promising career when she took her own life on April 14, 1917, at age 25.

Historians publish Dorland Robinson book

The impressive body of work by short-lived impressionist artist Regina Dorland Robinson comes to life in a hardback book recently published by the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

"A Lasting Impression: The Art and Life of Regina Dorland Robinson" is a 100-page, coffee-table edition filled with more than 90 colorful images of the Jacksonville native's work from her early sketches to her oils and pastels.

The book on the talented artist, who apparently committed suicide when she was 25, was written by historian Dawna Curler with research provided by fellow historian and writer Sue Waldron, both former longtime SOHS employees.

"Because of the quality of her work, Dorland is of national importance," Curler observed. "Her significance goes far beyond that of a local artist.

"She experimented a lot with her painting," she added, noting the book is laid out to show the progression of her work. "She was coming along — she was there. Where she would have gone as she matured ... "

Waldron, who spent three years researching their subject following a 2003 SOHS display of Robinson's art, agreed.

"When I saw her work, it was so powerful, so versatile," Waldron said of her willingness to spend years on the research. "She was very good."

Born in Jacksonville on Nov. 5, 1891, to Dr. James W. and Sarah "Tillie" Robinson, Dorland Robinson began taking art lessons at age 5 and studied with pioneer photographer Peter Britt.

At age 15, she was taken to Berkeley, Calif., to study art. The year 1907 found her studying art in Portland, where the Oregon Sunday Journal newspaper declared the 16-year-old a "prodigy." She later studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and watercolor and landscape in Oakland, Calif.

While living in the Bay Area, she joined a sketch club that included "avant-garde women artist movers and shakers," Curler said.

It was in California that Robinson met a traveling salesman living in San Francisco named Charles Henry Pearson. They were married in fall 1916.

After visiting Jacksonville, they traveled to New York City, then returned to the Bay Area, where she reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown early in 1917.

By early April, the artist and her mother were boarders in a home in San Mateo, Calif. Her mother found her dead in her room of a gunshot wound to the head on April 7. The San Mateo Times newspaper on April 14, 1917, reported she was found clutching a revolver. A coroner's jury concluded she shot herself "by her own hand while temporarily deranged, suicidal."

She was buried in the Jacksonville Cemetery where her two older siblings are buried. They both died in 1890 of diphtheria.

Pearson died in New York City in 1968, according to Waldron.

But the book focuses on her life's work, not her death.

On page 43 of the book, readers will see Robinson at work, thanks to a photograph taken by Peter Britt's son Emil as she painted alongside a lily pond on the Britt property in Jacksonville.

"At the historical society, we've known about this painting and talked about how it looks like it is posed," Curler said. "But we found a painting in private hands of this little girl with her feet in the pond."

They determined the painting is the same one on the easel being painted by Robinson in the photograph.

A copy of the completed painting can be seen on page 42.

A drawing of "Almond Blossoms" on page 75 reflects her interest in post-impressionist images. The painting is a bit more abstract than her impressionist work.

With more than 100 works, SOHS has the largest collection of Robinson's art.

"And we know the location of another 50 that are in private hands," Curler said, noting the book also includes paintings from private collections.

Four more Robinson pieces have come to light since the book was published in October.

"We know there are more out there because we have found reference to them in newspaper articles or found them on an exhibition list," Curler said.

Of particular interest to Curler is a life-size pastel of a woman friend with whom Robinson sometimes traveled.

"This woman is in a blue Mandarin Chinese robe," Curler said. "There is a big red oriental lantern behind her. And she is in a wicker chair.

"I know it existed once because she showed it up in Portland and she showed it down in Burlingame (Calif.)," she added. "There are newspaper descriptions of it. Somebody out there probably has it."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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