One of the great tragedies of Robinson’s life was being forced to sell his entire collection in the 1950s in order to settle his divorce from Gladys. He sold it all to shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos
for $3.5 million, with the understanding that he could eventually buy some of the paintings back. In time, with his second wife Jane, he repurchased 14 works from his original collection and started over. Robinson’s appetite for art might have kept the aging actor in showbusiness, appearing in films until the year of his death at age 79, in 1973.
During his six-decade career Robinson played gangsters, newspaper editors, a retired bootlegger, and, in his last film appearance, Soylent Green (1973) with Charlton Heston, a police analyst with a personal research library. One role he cheekily denied performing was that of a collector.
“I am not a collector. I’m just an innocent bystander who has been taken over by a collection,” he insisted. “I am just a lover of paintings. I do what I do for the sheer joy of it.”