Tuesday, October 11, 2011

W.H. Robinson's Color Bulls-Eye

What do I mean by that... you ask? I mean, he hit dead center on this one with his color work.

A few months ago while profiling the Calla Fall 11 releases (there's still one Golden Age reprint left to discuss) I posted a selection of William Heath Robinson's (British, 1872-1944) line work from Midsummer Night's Dream. WHR's line in that volume is beautifully clean and balanced, while the characters are intricate and full of personality. It's gorgeous ink work—but I chose not to review the color plates in that volume. I can't say the color work (in MSND) has the same impact on me as the ink work; the color is fine, but the ink work is excellent.

In other internet wanderings, I come across plates for a volume that W. H. Robinson produced in 1909. A Song of the English, by Rudyard Kipling. In this volume, the line work, while plentiful, is rather ordinary, but the color work here absolutely sings. I did some homework, and found that only the earliest copies contained all 30 of the color images... and they fetch quite a price. but good things come to those who wait, and after some time, I came across a nice copy which I can share with you today. Each of these five images is shown with the surrounding piece of line-work frame, printed in a soft color on the text stock, which frames the tipped-in full-color illustration. All of the plates for the volume are visible here, if you have a yearning to see the whole set.

or the whole volume, poem, line work, and all, here

The poem is about the grand Empire of Britain, which was quite extraordinary when Kipling wrote it in 1896. (The poem was originally published as part of the The Seven Seas) The dated qualities of the poem, and the attitudes that may not be universally favorable, may detract a bit from the books value in today's market, but the illustrations are some of W. H. Robinson's best. Subtlety, symbolism, solid figures, beautiful color.

In more current times, if any of you folks are heading off to Illuxcon, in Altoona, PA in a few weeks, (for the Illustration conference that happens there annually) keep an eye out for me—I'll have some of my books along with my own work at the Showcase event on Friday night.