Thanks to his delicate cartoonlike drawings of complicated gadgets and mechanisms, the surname of William Heath Robinson (1872-1944) is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning “ingeniously or ridiculously over-complicated in design or construction”. The Ministry of Defence even named a prototype of the Enigma code-breaking machine after him.
Earlier in his career, however, the artist was better known for his illustrations accompanying editions of such literary classics as Don Quixote (1897) and Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1899).
An exhibition of these ink drawings and watercolours opens on Saturday at the St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Hampshire. Among the works on display is the Beardsley-esque “Titania playing on pipes of corn, and versing love to amorous Phillida”, first published in Constable & Co’s 1914 edition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
‘Heath Robinson’ is on show from Saturday until April 20; www.stbarbe-museum.org.uk