The Fairy Tale Art of W. Heath Robinson
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219 pages

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This enchanting volume is a new collection of W. Heath Robinson’s fantastical fairy tale art and children’s book illustrations, produced across a 50-year career during the Golden Age of Illustration.

“Your absurd, beautiful drawings . . . give me a particular pleasure of the mind like nothing else in the world” —H. G. Wells, 1914

In honour of W. Heath Robinson’s 150th birthday, The Fairy Tale Art of W. Heath Robinson features the pioneering artist’s classic fairy tale illustrations. This carefully curated volume presents 100 black and white illustrations and 54 full-colour fairy tale artworks. Each image is presented as a full-page plate and is accompanied by its original caption and publication details.

The artist is much-loved for his innovative cartoons of bizarre machinery, and his fairy tale work also displays elements of the fantastical. Robinson’s children’s drawings juxtapose his machinery cartoons. His fairy tale illustrations veer away from the absurd and explore themes of magic and romanticism.

The contents of this fairy tale treasury include illustrations from some of the most-adored children's storybooks such as: The Giant Crab (1897), Arabian Nights (1899), The Adventures of Uncle Lubin (1902), Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales (1913), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1914) and many more.

Proudly published in a new collection by Pook Press, these wonderful Golden Age illustrations have been collated in a celebration of Robinson’s timeless work. This beautiful volume is not to be missed by fans of W. Heath Robinson and is the perfect gift for fairy tale lovers.



Publié par
Date de parution 18 mai 2022
Nombre de lectures 4
EAN13 9781528797597
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 14 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


The Fairy Tale Art of W. Heath Robinson
A Treasury of Children’s Book Illustration

Copyright © 2021 Pook Press An imprint of Read Books Ltd.
Home Farm, 44 Evesham Road, Cookhill, Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 5LJ
This book is copyright and may not be reproduced or copied in any way without the express permission of the publisher in writing.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data. A catalogue record for this book is available from
the British Library.

“Your absurd, beautiful drawings . . . give me a particular pleasure of the mind like nothing else in the world”
—H. G. Wells in a letter to Heath Robinson, 1914
“The fact is Heath Robinson has never grown up, and for everybody’s amusement, let us hope he never will”
— A. E. Johnson, Brush, Pen and Pencil , 1913

William Heath Robinson was an English illustrator, best known for his eccentric cartoons of absurd machines. As well as excelling with these popular sketches, Robinson was a prolific artist and book illustrator. With a collection of fairy tale art spanning nearly 50 years, this carefully curated volume celebrates many of Robinson’s wonderful, yet often overlooked, children’s book illustrations.
In 1872, Robinson was born in Islington, London, into a family of artists. His father, Thomas Robinson (1838–1937), was an engraver and illustrator for the Penny Illustrated Paper, a cheap London weekly that ran throughout the nineteenth century . His two brothers, Thomas Heath Robinson (1869–1954) and Charles Robinson (1870–1937), were also successful illustrators of books and children’s stories. W. Heath Robinson started his artistic journey at Islington Art School with dreams of becoming a professional landscape painter. Despite his classical training and resilient efforts, he gained little commercial success from his landscapes and downed his brushes to follow his father and brothers into the field of illustration. With prolific illustrators such as Aubrey Beardsley, Walter Crane, and Robert Anning Bell practising at the time, Robinson saw a career in illustration as a lucrative opportunity to continue his profession as an artist. Along with his two brothers, he worked in his father’s offices near Hampstead Heath, London, before embarking on his own illustrative career.
After many failed attempts to get commissioned work, Robinson’s first published book illustrations appeared in 1879 in The Giant Crab, a collection of stories for children based on Indian folklore written by W. H. D. Rouse. He described the charming tales as ‘naively and humorously written’ – an appealing subject for a young, jovial illustrator. At the time of publication, the world of illustration was going through a spell of creative brilliance. The period, now known as The Golden Age of Illustration (1875–1920), benefitted from revolutionary advancements in the printing process, marking an upsurge in the popularity, abundance, and quality of illustrated works. The improvements in technology allowed lavish colour illustrations to be printed for the first time, subsequently widening the market and boosting the popularity of the artists working in the

field. By the beginning of the twentieth century, wood engravings were no longer used to reproduce illustrations. Artists like Aubrey Beardsley utilised the zinc line block technique to create crisp, pure lines in their work.
Although Robinson’s early illustrations were mostly penned in black and white, what they lacked in colour, they made up for in glorious detail. He brilliantly captured the magic of the children’s stories, filling each page with humorous charm. The complex and often whimsical illustrations secured him an early standing in the illustrative community and spurred a stream of commissions for several other works.
While his illustrative career was on the upturn during the late nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the publication of his title The Adventures of Uncle Lubin in 1902 that Robinson truly gained recognition for his craft. Authored and illustrated by W. Heath Robinson himself, the fantastical story of Uncle Lubin is one full of waggish charm. The story follows the titular character on many adventures as he tries to rescue his nephew from the clutches of a troublesome bag-bird. Through the help of many innovative machines, Lubin embarks on a mission to retrieve his missing nephew, however, it is not all smooth sailing. Robinson called Lubin’s character an embodiment of his own ‘good genius’, a manifestation of his creative persona, one that opened many doors for him in the world of commercial magazine illustration.
Over his career, Robinson was fortunate to illustrate three editions of Hans Andersen’s Fairy Stories during the years of 1897, 1902, and 1913. With each benefitting from his improving skill and style, and the developments in the printing press, it was his 1913 edition, featured in this collection, that he saw as the best, ‘enhanced by the many colour illustrations’. He took pride in the stories penned by Hans Andersen, stating that the happier tone of the fairy tales allowed for more whimsical artwork. He made an effort to stay true to the ‘family resemblance’ of gnomes and fairies that exist within the world of fairy tales, filling the pages of children’s books with many magical pictures, stating that ‘perhaps it is this that has convinced many children both young and old that fairies really exist.’ The stunning colour illustrations in his 1913 edition of Hans Andersen’s Fairy Stories are a beautiful example of the multifaceted illustrator that Heath Robinson had become.
Along with his early success in children’s illustration, Robinson’s commercial work for magazines began to gather momentum. His magical children’s illustrations continued in tandem with other commercial work, as he turned his hand to creating satirical illustrations and advertisements. He began drawing funny cartoons for various advertisements and magazines,

including The Sketch and Tatler, launching his career as a humorous artist. He became well known as a character in his own right, with contemporaries like H. G. Wells becoming extremely fond of his clever wit and personality in the works. In his autobiography, My Line of Life, Robinson states, ‘I was imagined by some people to be a kind of ingenious mad-hatter, wandering around absent mindedly, with my pockets full of knotted string, nails and pegs of wood, ready to invent anything at a moment’s notice.’
In his magazine illustrations, his charming characters left the childish fantasies of Uncle Lubin behind. They became experts in British industries, haphazard inventions, and sports, amongst other things, artfully playing to their new grown-up audiences. Robinson created a series of drawings that included fantastical yet often perilous occupations like ‘Tickling for the Bandicoot in New South Wales’ and ‘Stiltonizing Cheese in the Stockports of Cheddar’. While these drawings were more commercial than his children’s book illustrations, they were still full of Robinson’s fanciful humour. Many of his invented machines, methods, and games were recreated by fans of his work worldwide.
His comedic, mechanical drawings earned him the nickname ‘The Gadget King’. The cartoons were so popular that they were reprinted many times and helped to develop the phrase ‘Heath Robinson’. This term was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 1912 and describes over-complicated and absurd contraptions that are used to gain simple results.
Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Robinson’s magical illustrations for William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream were published in a mix of full plate colour and stunning black and white – creating a magical distraction from the horrors that would soon ensue. The full-colour plates focus on the landscape scenery and create an immersive world for the characters, potentially taking influence from his serious landscape work as a young art graduate. Their washes of colour perfectly complement their intricate black and white neighbours, further elucidating many of the magical stories at his fingertips. Robinson’s lavish illustrations evoke the enchanting, romantic, and often cheeky spirit of Shakespeare’s most popular play, creating an atmosphere that he refers to as ‘the most wonderful moonlight night in fantasy.’ Robinson’s masterpiece continues to be one of the most stunning editions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream .
As war erupted across Europe, Robinson’s magazine illustrations became heavily satirical. Building on the absurd machines first seen in The Adventures of Uncle Lubin, Robinson drew many cartoons depicting unlikely secret weapons used by the soldiers. The drawings for Sketch during the war years humorously

depict attacks from the German army and the comical defence by the British. His machines were often rickety, unstable, and powered by candles or steam from boilers or kettles. They were kept running by balding, bespectacled men. Complex pulleys, levers, strings, and knots held these machines together and powered them along. He continued to draw for Sketch until the end of the war. The cartoons were sent out en masse to the men fighting across the world and were greatly appreciated by British soldiers seeking a small piece of humour in the bleakness of the trenches.
Following the triumph of his early illustrative works, Robinson continued to produce artwork for many children’s books throughout the first half of the decade. Contrasting his nonsensical machinery cartoons, he created beautiful works for classic children’s literature, as seen in this volume, which demonstrate his keen talent and vast range of style. His

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