Thomas Heath Robinson (1869-1953) Skilled as a painter and printmaker as well as an illustrator, Thomas Heath Robinson was one of the leading black-and-white artists working at the turn of the century. Thomas Heath Robinson was born in Islington, North London, on 19 June 1869. He attended local schools before studying at Islington School of Art (from 1885). Following the profession of his father, Thomas Robinson, he published his first illustrations in summer 1893, to a story by Mrs M E Braddon, in The Pall Mall Magazine. Two years later, George Allen gave him his first commission for a book, Frank Rinder’s retelling of legends from Old World Japan. He rose to the occasion on this and subsequent projects, soon becoming one of the leading black-and-white artists of his age.
Specialising in historical subjects, which he represented with both care and flair, he illustrated over 30 books and contributed regularly to magazines during the first decade of his career. His hard work continued to prove successful until the outbreak of the First World War, and his family life – in Hampstead (from 1902) and then in Pinner (from 1906) – was happy. But he then succumbed to such hardships of war as paper shortages and slackening demands for books. While his fortunes were slow to revive, he continued to paint and etch, as well as illustrate, and was an active member of the Langham Sketching Club. He even taught himself Greek. From 1926, his skill as an illustrator was again in demand, though mostly for children’s annuals and cheap productions. Following the death of his wife, in 1940, Robinson moved to St Ives, in Cornwall, dying there in February 1953.
Further reading: Geoffrey Beare, The Brothers Robinson, London, Chris Beetles Ltd, 1992