Royal Academy Shines A Light on the work of William Heath Robinson

Titania, after a drawing by W.H. Robinson for Shakespeare's Comedy of a Midsummer night's dream, with illustrations by W.Heath Robinson, 1914. Photo credit: © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Titania, after a drawing by W.H. Robinson for Shakespeare’s Comedy of a Midsummer night’s dream, with illustrations by W.Heath Robinson, 1914. Photo credit: © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

London’s Royal Academy is hosting an exhibition of the work of the singularly unique artist William Heath Robinson, which runs until 3rd June 2016.

William Heath Robinson (1872-1944), immortalised as the “gadget man”, was an illustrator of enormous range and charm. This RA Library Print Room exhibition  showcases his evocative book illustrations that reveal his mastery of black and white line.

The artist attended the Royal Academy Schools from 1892 until 1897 and originally aspired to be a serious landscape painter. Family connections with Fleet Street, however, soon led to commissions as an illustrator and his particular blend of stylish draughtsmanship and inventive imagination proved well suited to this genre.

Absurdity and nonsense are never far away in Robinson’s work as imaginary, impish characters appear alongside beautifully balanced designs. Robinson was haunted by whimsical characters who lead him into all sorts of adventures. One in particular, The Adventures of Uncle Lubin (1902), first brought his distinctive humour to the public’s notice.

The Water Babies by William Heath Robinson

Please note, this image from The Water Babies from The Water Babies is for illustrative purposes and may not be in the exhibition

This RA display features a selection of his early graphic works for children’s classic literature including The Water Babies (1915) – a work that has seen many stunning interpretations down the years, documented here – and Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1913), featured alongside familiar book illustrations and cartoons from his later career showing examples of his famous contraptions.

Printed ephemera and First Editions from the RA Collection complement the drawings which are on loan from the Heath Robinson Museum, soon to open in Harrow, North London thanks to the William Heath Robinson Trust.

On Tuesday 5th April 2016, guest curator Amanda Doran will introduce the work of William Heath Robinson in a special Collection Talk (3.00 – 3.30pm). She’ll explore some of his most evocative book illustrations featured in this small exhibition of his work in The Royal Academy’s Library Print Room. More details here.

Illustration for The Adventures of Uncle Lubin by William Heath Robinson

Illustration for The Adventures of Uncle Lubin by William Heath Robinson

William Heath Robinson’s Life of Line runs until 3rd June in the RA Library Print Room, The Library and Print Room, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD. 

Exhibition open Tuesday – Friday 10.00am – 1.00pm and 2.00– 5.00pm. Admission: Complimentary entry with a valid Royal Academy exhibition ticket or £3 General Admission ticket. Friends of the RA and under 16s go free. Box Office: 020 7300 8090 To book tickets for exhibitions and events. Lines are open 10am – 5pm, seven days a week

• The William Heath Robinson Trust was established to conserve and exhibit the collection of the works of William Heath Robinson made by his daughter, Joan Brinsmead. The Trust also seeks to add to the collection, to foster study of the artist and his work and to make the full scope of his achievements more widely known. Web: heathrobinson.org


The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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