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Entry to the Special Exhibition is included with your museum entry ticket.


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Two collections of Fairy Tales stand out in William Heath Robinson’s illustrative work. These are the Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, which he illustrated three times, and those collected by Charles Perrault. The Perrault stories were translated from the French by his agent A E Johnson and published in 1921 under the title Old Time Stories.

Happily Ever After? Illustrating Perrault & Andersen’s Fairy Tales is an exhibition exploring Heath Robinson’s illustrations for the these fairy tales, as well as work on the same subjects by Michael Foreman OBE.

Heath Robinson is best known for his drawings of complicated contraptions and zany inventions, but he was also a keen illustrator of children’s stories and classic fairy tales. The works of Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen inspired some of his earliest illustrative commissions, and allowed him to explore an assortment of subjects and characters, from sleeping princesses to terrifying monsters! Dark, adventurous and witty, Heath Robinson’s well-known humour and complexity come through in this lesser-known, but no less important part of his work.

The works of Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen have made fairy tales into what they are today, impacting storytelling as we know it. Shedding a light on the history of these stories, and how they in turn have been interpreted by artists throughout the centuries, we follow pirates, princesses and adventurers from Heath Robinson’s whimsical illustrations to Michael Foreman’s more contemporary drawings. In comparing the two formidable artists, audiences can gauge the timelessness of Perrault and Andersen’s fairy tales, as well as witnessing how they might have changed as they have been subject to interpretation over a number of years.

Both artists were inspired to produce some of their best work for these subjects. Technical constraints of the time meant that the greater proportion of Heath Robinson’s work was in black and white. Advances in printing technology enabled the majority of Michael Foreman’s illustrations to be in full colour.

Come and see the sinister, comedic, whimsical world of fairy tale, where some endings may not be as happy as you expect!

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Permanent Exhibition

Our permanent Heath Robinson exhibition combines original artwork with books, photographs, film & digital media to tell the full story of Heath Robinson’s artistic career.

23 Sep 2023 - 7 Jan 2024

Illustrating the Grotesque

Acidic, bawdy, grotesque. Heath Robinson’s illustrations for Rabelais explore a dark and dramatic part of his practice, characterised by expressive linework and grim subjects. See them alongside Goya’s Los Caprichos; experimental etchings portraying beasts, scoundrels and a society in ruin.

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