Heath Robinson’s advertising celebrated in an exhibition at McCann London

From Honda to Google to OK Go, it would seem that everybody loves a quirky chain reaction machine. The influence for these contraptions is usually attributed to US cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg but another inspiration is British illustrator W Heath Robinson, whose work is currently on show at McCann London.

Already known for his illustrations for books and newspapers, it was during the First World War that the association between Heath Robinson and ludicrously complicated machines was made, after a series of his cartoons depicted the crazily complex machines he imagined might be being cooked up by the enemy. He continued the theme in his later advertising work, which can be seen in the exhibition at McCann London. This is the first UK show to celebrate this aspect of Heath Robinson’s work, and considering its influence on the industry, is somewhat overdue.

It features his work for brands including Hovis, Crawford’s Biscuits and Shredded Wheat, and is curated by Geoffrey Beare, a trustee for the Heath Robinson Museum, which is due to open next year in Pinner. Alongside the original drawings, there is also a selection of vintage publications showing the works in print.

McCann London has its own obscure link to Heath Robinson, via its offices, which are contained within a Grade 2 listed Art Deco building. Built in 1931, the building was originally a Daimler car showroom, a brand for which Heath Robinson created a series of illustrations, which are included in the show.

Advert for Crawford's Biscuits; Above: Advert for Hovis Bread
Advert for Crawford’s Biscuits; Above: Advert for Hovis Bread
Sandy McDonald Scotch Whisky ad
Sandy McDonald Scotch Whisky ad
Front cover of book commissioned by Great Western Railway to celebrate its centenary in 1935
Front cover of book commissioned by Great Western Railway to celebrate its centenary in 1935
Installation shots of McCann London show
Installation shots of McCann London show

‘Heath Robinson in Advertising’ is on until October 22 at McCann London, 7-11 Herbrand Street, London, WC1N 1EX. It is open from 10-5.30 on weekdays. mccannlondon.co.uk

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