Monday, May 30, 2011

Fine Lines & Solid Blacks, V. II

William Heath Robinson's A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Brothers Robinson. Throughout the history of illustration— there have been repeated instances of siblings who have found measured success as individual illustrators. Usually there are marked similarities in style and execution, but sometimes there are differences, that will put one ahead of another—at least in commercial success.

In the case of the brothers Robinson, there was not a just pair of brothers, but three. Thomas Heath, (1869-1950), Charles, (1870-1937), and William Heath, (1872-1944). The mutual success they shared is quite amazing, with their total output in Golden Age volumes having tremendous influence, especially when looked at combined. The three of them have far too much to look at or discuss in a single VIEW post, so I'm going to start with the youngest, and by today's measure, the most recognized, William Heath.

As mentioned in the last post, in the current Calla season, one of the volumes I'm particularly stoked about is W. H. Robinson's Illustrated volume of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. W. H. Robinson did do some stellar color work in his career, some of which I hope to show you this summer— but I want to look at the absolutely incredible line art he did for A Midsummer Night's Dream. The book (1914) contained 12 color plates, and 51 line illustrations, many of which were full page. W. H. Robinson had an incredible eye for deciphering contrast, and his inky shadows have some of the best shapes of any line work of the period. Here are a few of my favorite pages and pieces-

W. H. Robinson's career took an unusual turn at the beginning of World War I, when he began designing some strange, complex contraptions (in a comic form) to do simple mundane tasks. This form of cartoon became immensely popular, and while there were dozens of illustrators who could do a fair Fairy-tale page, this kind of design and humor were nearly unique to W. H. Robinson—so he made the most of it, and spent a good deal of his later career doing that type of work.

Jim Vadeboncouer's W. H. Robinson Bio


Yes, An Edmund Dulac Treasury, my latest compilation work, is now available! Shakespeare Illustrated should be right on its tail, here in a few weeks....

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