Charles Robinson, RI (1870-1937) Charles produced distinctive illustrations and watercolours, evolving his style from the influences of Pre-Raphaelitism and Art Nouveau, Japanese prints and the work of Old Masters.
The second son of Thomas Robinson, Charles was born in Islington, North London on 22 October 1870. He attended the Highbury School of Art for a short time before being apprenticed to the Finsbury-based lithographic printers, Waterlow and Sons; while there, he worked alongside George Soper. On completing his apprenticeship he enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools, but almost immediately abandoned his studies there due to lack of finance. However, he continued at evening classes at the West London School of Art and at Heatherley’s, and evolved his own distinct style from the influences of Pre-Raphaelitism and Art Nouveau (Beardsley), Japanese prints and the work of Old Masters (Dürer). His first published drawings, for three children’s primers, generated a favourable review and an article in the Studio (1895).
As a result, he was commissioned by John Lane to illustrate a highly successful edition of Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1896). This was followed by some of his finest illustrative work in colour, such as Shelley’s The Sensitive Plant (1911) and Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince (1913). Yet, as for his elder brother Thomas Heath Robinson, the circumstances of the First World War brought considerable hardship to him and his family. He was reduced to such mundane tasks as decorative lettering for the titles of periodical stories. Being too old for the regular forces, he enrolled as a member of the Volunteer Training Corps, and reached the rank of second lieutenant. After the war, periodical illustration enabled him to earn a modest living and he and his family moved to Botley in Buckinghamshire. He had exhibited watercolours at the Royal Academy since 1898, and he worked increasingly in the medium, being elected to the membership of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours (1932). He was also an active member of the London Sketch Club and of the Savage Club, serving as President of the former in 1926-27. His work is represented in the collections of the V&A; and Towneley Art Gallery and Museums (Burnley).
Further reading: Geoffrey Beare, The Brothers Robinson, London: Chris Beetles, 1992; Leo de Freitas, Charles Robinson, London: Academy Editions, 1976