Heath Robinson Exhibition
The Walker - Exhibition runs until 22 August
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
This delightful exhibition by the 'Gadget King' Heath Robinson at the Walker complements the work shown in the Tim Lewis exhibition in the adjacent room at the gallery.
However, whereas Lewis has crazy and surreal machines actually in working motion, Robinson, although equally eccentric, restricted his ideas to drawings of them.
Although remembered mainly for his obsession with gadgetry, in many forms, he was nevertheless a versatile artist.
His 'Studies of Heads for Rabelais' (1908) showing ten grotesque heads, is reminiscent of the drawings of Leonardo and Breughel.
Robinson also wrote and illustrated children's books, produced outstanding humorous drawings, did illustrations for poetry by Kipling and Poe, and created pieces of china, all of which are on display.
One of his most controversial so-called humorous drawings was penned in 1915. Used in 'The Sketch' newspaper of that time, it relates to the Breaches of the Hague Convention by the German army who bombarbed the British troops in the trenches with deadly mustard gas. In his drawing the Huns are instead shown pumping laughing gas from siphons at their enemies before an attack.
But instead of being condemned for a poor judgement of test of such a serious subject,the British soldiers at the front-line enjoyed his piece of satire, apparently because it was an effective antidote to the real horrors of war that they were enduring.
"Trained at the Royal Academy of Art, it was his skills as a draughtsman combined with his unique vision that accounted for his succcess both as an illustrator and humourist," said Walker spokesperson Stephen Guy. "As a graphic artist he was constantly experimenting, adopting different styles to suit his subject."
As with the Lewis exhibition next door, adults as well as children, will be fascinated by the works of these two very distinctive English artists.