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Absurdities

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For those of you who haven’t heard of William Heath Robinson, more commonly known as Heath Robinson, he was an English artist who lived from 1872 – 1944. He is mainly known for his cartoons, which frequently involve very complex inventions that are being used to carry out relatively simple jobs. So well did he capture the British public’s imagination with these cartoons, that his name started being used as part of a common phrase (“Heath-Robinson contraption”), although this phrase is not used so much now.

The book, Absurdities, is one of a number that between them collect together Heath Robinson’s cartoon work, although it must be noted here that he undertook other work as well, such as illustrating books and advertising artwork, which he actually preferred to cartooning. Topics covered by the cartoons in this book include modesty, several of the “Flat Life” series, various sports, how they put the lines on kilts and a painful-looking way to remove warts from the top of the head. The level of detail that is evident in almost every drawing cannot be emphasised enough; the clsoer you look, the more you see.

Robinson also had a knack for capturing people in a cartoony way without going as far as flat-out caricatures. I suppose I’d call them “half-caricatures” but there’s probably a proper name for them. Not to mention the numerous bits of patched-up machinery that make up his contraptions – wheels with broken spokes held together by a wooden board across them, ropes and belts tied together in several places, and metal plates welded and bolted together in place of one larger plate.

All in all, an engrossing book. I’m glad my parents kept it, although it’s showing its age a bit now. If you can get a copy cheap somewhere, do so, and discover a truly talented British artist.

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