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

Following the success of Uncle Lubin (1902), Heath Robinson was commissioned to illustrate The Works of Rabelais. These portray a bleak landscape largely peopled by grotesque peasants and priests whose lives are dominated by fear and superstition and who can find relief only in drunkenness and debauchery.

This was going to require a style of illustration very different from the children’s books he had been illustrating or the sophisticated Art Nouveau line that he had developed for Poe’s Poems in 1900.

Heath Robinson had trained at the Royal Academy Schools from 1892 to 1897. In 1878 the RA Library had purchased a set of Goya’s Los Caprichos and it is highly likely that it was there that he found the inspiration for his Rabelais drawings, published in 1904.

Following a serious illness that had left him deaf, Goya became disillusioned with the social structure of the time and severed all connection with the outside world. He set out to satirise the social inequality and ignorance that were rife in Spain in a set of 80 etchings.

Colour had become useless to him, black and white was enough. This new language was better suited to represent the people’s sins, their vices and their base inclinations. Dazzling and grotesque effigies are etched on copper plates in a dance of beautiful women witches, devils, people with animal faces, animals with human faces and flying creatures.


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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