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The inscription on the reverse of the National Gallery's Portrait of an Old Man (1955.11.14) identifies the painter as J. C. Robinson. No biographical information on Robinson has been discovered. A Joseph C. Robinson who made daguerreotypes is listed in directories from New York City in 1848 and from Cincinnati in 1850-1851. Whether he painted portraits has not been established.
The Portrait of an Old Man and its companion painting Portrait of an Old Lady (1955.11.15) are Robinson's only known works, and their distinctive qualities could aid in identifying additional portraits by him. Although these portraits clearly show that the artist lacked formal training, they reveal an effective and sympathetic approach to portraiture. The date on the painting of the man provides the information that Robinson was active in 1848. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]