Heath Robinson cartoons saved for the nation

  • 6 March 2015

A large collection of works by the illustrator William Heath Robinson has been acquired by the William Heath Robinson Trust thanks to support from an Art Fund grant.

Heath Robinson, watercolour illustration from the Simon Heneage collection William Heath Robinson Trust

Heath Robinson, watercolour illustration from the Simon Heneage collection

Heath Robinson (1872–1944) was one of the leading illustrators of his day. He was synonymous with his drawings of intricate contraptions – the Collins dictionary defines a 'Heath Robinson' as a 'mechanical device absurdly complicated in design and having a simple function'.

His ironic and absurd depictions of both world wars proved extremely popular, and his work went on to influence later artists ranging from Nick Park – creator of Wallace and Gromit – to Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the London 2012 Olympic cauldron.

The Art Fund has awarded the William Heath Robinson Trust £50,000 towards acquiring 410 drawings and paintings spanning the full range of Heath Robinson's work. The collection includes many of his best-known cartoons from both world wars, and has a heavy emphasis on his humorous works.

Highlights of the collection include pieces from his Saintly Hun series, which subverted typical First World War stereotypes of the Germans, and an almost complete set of drawings from his aspirational 1941 series How to Build a New World.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'We’re immensely pleased to have helped with the acquisition of this important group of works, a perfect complement to the Trust's developing collection.  We all look forward to the opening of the Museum with pleasurable anticipation.  It's hard to imagine England's culture without William Heath Robinson.'

The works will join the Trust's existing collection at the new Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner, which opens in April 2016.

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