Thomas Robinson and Eliza Heath had three sons, Thomas
(1870-1937), and William
(1872-1944), who followed in their father's (and grandfather's) footsteps as illustrators of various sorts. The most widely know was the youngest, W. Heath Robinson, whose contraptions
earned him the reputation as the UK counterpart to the US artist Rube Goldberg
. But the other two brothers are not to be overlooked.Thomas Robinson was an all-round artist, he worked in pen, colour, oils and etchings, but never had the flair for the creation of the fantastic or the talent for decoration and design of his brothers,
and he has not received much (lasting/online) recognition.
Charles was a prolific artist
, working first with engravings as his father and grandfather had, but he was an artist at the exciting period when photographic reproduction
was a burgeoning technique, giving commercial illustrators the chance to expand their styles. Though never formally trained, Charles illustrated lots of fairy tales and children's books throughout his career
, including the colorful Lilliput Lyrics
(1899), which can be compared to Big Book of Fairy Tales
(1896 edition), in which Charles provided some black and white illustrations, and The True Annals of Fairy Land: The Reign of King Herla
(1900), which features fanciful illustrations black, red and blue, with a more vivid cover. That is not to say that Charles Robinson was limited without color, as his work in Percy Bysshe Shelley's limited edition print of The Sensitive Plant
(1899) is lush and detailed. Charles also worked with water colors
, more so later in his life.
William Robinson was formally trained as a painter, wishing to be a landscape artist
, but turned to follow his family's path and illustrated books as a more steady line of work. William illustrated works written by others, including Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or What You Will
, but went on to write his own stories, starting with The Adventures of Uncle Lubin
(Google books) in 1902. Ten years later, he wrote and illustrated Bill the Minder
, which was quite successful, eventually leading to a 15 episode animated series
. That same year, broad recognition of his bizarre contraptions
was formalized, when "Heath-Robinson" entered the dictionary
, describing "a machine that is very cleverly made and is complicated in a silly or humorous way, but has no practical use," and since then, "Heath-Robinson" has become a more generalized adjective
to describe something "having a very complicated design, especially when used to perform a very simple task; not practical."
Parting notes: the three brothers didn't gain the same level of recognition, and though it appears they all shared their mother's maiden name as their middle names and it seems they often went by their first initial plus middle and last name, only William was well enough known by W. Heath Robinson that he is sometimes simply called "Heath Robinson" (the URL for the William Heath Robinson Trust is heathrobinson.org
). But there was a time when they all worked together, as seen in the 1899 edition of Fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen
, where they were credited in order of age.