Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Robinson, W Heath

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(1872-1944) UK artist and illustrator – and brother of Charles Robinson – who from 1897 produced many finely composed, meticulously inked drawings and decorations for illustrated editions of fantasy by Hans Christian Andersen, Miguel Cervantes, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, François Rabelais, Walter de La Mare, Charles Kingsley and others. He also illustrated his own humorous Children's Fantasies, The Adventures of Uncle Lubin (1902) and Bill the Minder (1912): the drawings for Lubin's Munchhausen-like exploits show WHR's fondness for cluttered masses of ramshackle paraphernalia. This foreshadowed the ridiculously overelaborate Technofantasy gadgets, usually held together with knotted string, which became the trademark of his Humour – although his range was rather wider. Even World War I became comic as WHR filled cartoon battlefields with gigantic vacuum cleaners to suck Germans out of dugouts, or mechanized belts of hot-water-bottles to warm kilted Highlanders' exposed flesh. He was the perfect illustrator for The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm (1933) by Norman Hunter (1899-1995). Absurdities: A Book of Collected Drawings (graph coll 1934) is WHR's own large selection of his humorous artwork; Railway Ribaldry (graph coll 1935) focuses on railways and Trains (>>> Rowland Emett); Inventions (graph coll 1973) assembles "gadget" drawings from WWI to WHR's death. The phrase "a Heath Robinson contraption" is still part of the language. [DRL]

other works: The Art of the Illustrator (graph 1918); Flypapers (graph coll 1919); Humours of Golf (graph coll 1923); Let's Laugh (graph coll 1939; vt Devices 1977); Heath Robinson at War (graph coll 1942); The Penguin Heath Robinson (graph coll 1966) ed. R Furneaux Jordan; The W. Heath Robinson Illustrated Story Book (coll 1979), children's stories 1916-1921; Great British Industries and Other Cartoons from The Sketch, 1906-1914 (graph coll 1985). The unfinished «Uncle Lubin's Holiday» is included in The Life and Art of W. Heath Robinson (1947) by Langton Day.

With K.R.G. Browne: How To Live in a Flat (1936); How to Be a Perfect Husband (1937); How to Make a Garden Grow (1938); How to Be a Motorist (1939)

With H. Cecil Hunt: How to Make the Best of Things (1940); How to Build a New World (1941); How to Run a Communal Home (1943).

further reading: My Line of Life (1938), autobiography; The Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson: A Commentary and Bibliography (1983) by Geoffrey C Beare.

see also: Rube Goldberg.

William Heath Robinson


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.