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William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)


William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)

Heath Robinson is a household name, and a byword for a design or construction that is ‘ingeniously or ridiculously over-complicated’ (as defined by The New Oxford Dictionary of English, 1998, page 848). Yet, he was also a highly distinctive and versatile illustrator, whose work could touch at one extreme the romantic watercolours of a Dulac or Rackham, at another the sinister grotesqueries of a Peake, and at yet another the eccentricities of an Emett.

William Heath Robinson was born in Islington, North London, on 31 May 1872, the third of seven children of Thomas Robinson, chief staff artist of the
Penny Illustrated Paper, and his wife, Eliza (née Heath), the daughter of an innkeeper. In the hope of becoming a landscape painter, he studied at Islington School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, but soon followed his brothers, Charles and Tom, into the more secure profession of illustration. He contributed to periodicals from 1896 and, in the following year, began to illustrate books. In 1903, he married Josephine Latey, the daughter of John Latey, the art and literary editor of the Penny Illustrated Paper, who had died the year before.

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