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William Heath Robinson

(1872-1944), Cartoonist and book illustrator

Sitter in 4 portraits
Robinson came from a dynasty of wood-engravers and commercial artists. He studied at Islington Art School and the Royal Academy Schools, and in 1903 married the daughter of the editor of the Penny Illustrated Paper. Influenced by art nouveau line drawings and Japanese prints, he became illustrator of the Arabian Nights, Rabelais and Shakespeare. He found his niche with drawings of absurd machines performing banal tasks. His sense of the ridiculous boosted morale in both World Wars. In 1934, the full-scale working house for 'the Gadget Family' was built from his drawings for the Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia. His name is used to describe complicated, ramshackle and usually pointless machines.

Watch a film clip on the sitter from the BBC Archive in the Media section below

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William Heath Robinson, by Yvonne Gregory - NPG P517

William Heath Robinson

by Yvonne Gregory
chlorobromide print, 21 July 1938
NPG P517

William Heath Robinson, by Guy Worsdell - NPG 5906

William Heath Robinson

by Guy Worsdell
oil on board, 1943
NPG 5906

William Heath Robinson, by Harry Lawrence Oakley - NPG D370

William Heath Robinson

by Harry Lawrence Oakley
silhouette, 1920s-1940s
NPG D370



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