Heath Robinson: Masterpieces Of Art by Susan Grange (book review).

Heath Robinson: Masterpieces Of Art by Susan Grange
Front cover: Water Divining: Testing Candidates for the Position of Water Diviner on the Metropolitan Water Board, 1947, © The William Heath Robinson Trust.

I’ve reviewed several books about William Health Robinson (1872-1944) before but not in a long while. He came from an artistic family and joined his two brothers as professional illustrators, although better remembered than they were simply because of his ingenious cartoons although capable of much more.

Heath Robinson: Masterpieces Of Art by Susan Grange
pp124 & 125 (Bedroom Boat Race Practice and How to Rise with the Sun): both Courtesy of Bridgeman Images/© Private Collection.

What this book presents is showing Heath Robinson was both an illustrator and cartoonist, often doing both types of art for different publishers at the same time. He even illustrated ‘The Poems Of Edgar Allen Poe’ 1900 book and whose art shown here and which is really dark in mood. However, when it comes to humorous art, he really came into his own and made it when even a Member of Parliament described something as a ‘Heath Robinson contraption’.

It’s hardly surprising that a lot of Heath Robinson’s cartoons sent up sport. Playing cricket across mountain peaks and having two cricketeers being assaulted by balls from all directions are things that could really be tried in real life. One picture you should not show your children is a girthy Santa Claus looking at a narrow chimney stack and wondering how he’ll get down it. Not that it’ll scare your sprogs but make cause you to modify your small chimney stack to something bigger.

Heath Robinson: Masterpieces Of Art by Susan Grange
p60 (Tough Stuff): Courtesy of Bridgeman Images/© Chris Beetles Ltd, London
p61 (Santa Claus (as He Gazes at the Chimney-pot)): Courtesy of Bridgeman Images/British Library, London, UK/© British Library Board. All Rights Reserved.

I think the biggest surprise this time was seeing Heath Robinson doing sequential art. Even that has his touch so instead of going from left to right, its down the page instead. Mind you with his panoramic pictures, left to right would have been difficult.

A kinema in a car isn’t something likely to happen is it? Heath Robinson got there first on page 110-111 in 1926. I do wonder if he’d ever considered adding them to an aeroplane. Mind you, for the home oarsman in a lockdown, his example on page 124, should cause some of you to think his example might actually have some value.

Heath Robinson: Masterpieces Of Art by Susan Grange
pp110–11 (The Kinecar): Courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library/© Illustrated London News Ltd.

I should point out that much of the art shown here isn’t some I’ve seen before so you shouldn’t have problems with duplication. You might also need to come up with an ingenious contraption to prevent your ‘friends’ from borrowing it and a big sign saying, ‘Get your own copy’.

GF Willmetts

April 2021

(pub: Flame Tree Publishing, 2014. 127 page large square illustrated indexed hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK) $19.99 (US), $25.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78664-541-8)

check out website: www.flametreepublishing.com

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