Entertainment & Arts

William Heath Robinson cartoon collection 'saved' for nation

William Heath Robinson in 1929 Image copyright WHRT
Image caption William Heath Robinson pictured at his desk in 1929

Grants worth £300,000 have helped stop a large number of works by cartoonist and illustrator William Heath Robinson being sold and potentially broken up.

The collection, which includes many of his best-known WW1 and World War Two cartoons, was put up for sale in 2011.

The 410 drawings and paintings have now been acquired by the William Heath Robinson Trust (WHRT).

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) gave a £250,000 grant to assist the purchase.

An additional grant of £50,000 was provided by the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art.

Heath Robinson's drawings of complicated inventions saw his name enter the lexicon in 1912 as a synonym for absurdly ingenious devices.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park and Olympic Cauldron designer Thomas Heatherwick are among those to have cited him as an influence on their work.

Image copyright WHRT

The cartoons include Deceiving the invader as to the state of the tide (left), part of a series looking at possible ways to resist a German invasion, and another drawing depicting British and German tunnellers meeting underground as they attempt to plant mines beneath each other's trenches (right).

Image copyright WHRT

Confusing the Enemy's Sense of Direction (left) imagines underground pulleys being used to spin a rural road sign, while 'Netting Tanks' (right) imagines armoured vehicles being armed with nets to "deal with a threatened menace on the Western Front".

Image copyright WHRT

Heath Robinson also found much to laugh at away from the battlefield, to which these colour illustrations of applicants "for the position of water diviner on the Metropolitan Water Board" (left) and "a Christmas deed of kindness" (right) attest.

'British humour at its best'

"These fantastically wry cartoons represent British humour at its best," said Carole Souter, the NHMF's chief executive. "We felt that it was important to keep this collection together for the nation to rediscover and enjoy."

The collection, which includes rare early sketches and advertising commissions, will be displayed at the new Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner, north west London, when it opens in April 2016.

"We are proud to become custodians of such an exciting collection of works by one of Britain's best loved artists," said Geoffrey Beare of the WHRT.

Born in 1872, William Heath Robinson moved to Pinner in 1908. He died in September 1944, aged 72.

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