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William Heath Robinson was born into a family of illustrators, and trained as an artist at Islington School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. On leaving art school, his ambition was to become a landscape painter, but out of financial necessity he entered the commercial art world. He excelled as a serious illustrator during what is regarded as the ‘Golden Age’ of illustration from 1895 to 1914, standing alongside such artists as Rackham and Dulac. In parallel with this, he developed a reputation as one of the leading comic artists of the day. His tongue-in-cheek designs for complex and impractical mechanical contraptions have caused the expression “Heath Robinson” to enter the language to describe any overly complicated and implausible endeavour.

Geoffrey Beare worked as an operations research scientist in the Ministry of Defence until 2009, when he took early retirement. He is the leading expert on Heath Robinson and has researched and written about all aspects of the artist’s work and curated the exhibition of Heath Robinson’s work at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2003, which has been touring the UK ever since.

Time Out London