Henry Peach Robinson

Henry Peach Robinson

Henry Peach Robinson (July 9,1830 in Ludlow, ShropshireFebruary 21, 1901) was an English Pictorialist photographer best known for his pioneering combination printing - joining multiple negatives to form a single image, the precursor to photomontage. Oscar Gustave Rejlander of Wolverhampton was however, the first to establish this art in 1857, a year earlier than Robinson.


Robinson was the eldest of the four children of John Robinson, a Ludlow schoolmaster, and his wife Eliza. He was educated at Horatio Russell's academy in Ludlow until he was thirteen, when he took a year's drawing tuition with Richard Penwarne before being apprenticed to a Ludlow bookseller and printer, Richard Jones.

While continuing to study art, his initial career was in bookselling, in 1850 working for the Bromsgrove bookseller Benjamin Maund, then in 1851 for the London-based Whittaker & Co. In 1852 he exhibited an oil painting, "On the Teme Near Ludlow", at the Royal Academy. That same year he began taking photographs, and five years later, following a meeting with the photographer Hugh Welch Diamond, decided to devote himself to that medium, in 1855 opening a studio in Leamington Spa, selling portraits.

In 1856, with Rejlander, he was a founding member of the Birmingham Photographic Society.

In 1859 he married Selina Grieves, daughter of a Ludlow chemist, John Edward Grieves.

In 1864, at the age of thirty-four, Robinson was forced to give up his studio due to ill-health from exposure to toxic photographic chemicals. Gernsheim (1962) has shown that thereafter he preferred the easier 'scissors and paste-pot' method of making his combination prints, rather than the more exacting darkroom method employed by Rejlander.

Relocating to London, Robinson kept up his involvement with the theoretical side of photography, writing the influential essay "Pictorial Effect in Photography, Being Hints on Composition and Chiaroscuro for Photographers", published in 1868. Around this time his health had improved sufficiently to open a new studio in Tunbridge Wells with Nelson King Cherrill, and in 1870 he become vice-president of the Royal Photographic Society. He advocated strongly for photography to be regarded as an art form.

The partnership with Cherrill dissolved in 1875, Robinson continuing the business until his retirement in 1888. Following internal disputes within the Photographic Society, he resigned in 1891 to become one of the early members of the rival Linked Ring society, in which he was active until 1900, when he was also elected an honorary member of the Royal Photographic Society.

He died and was buried in Tunbridge Wells in early 1901.


One of the most prominent art photographers of his day, he is now often considered conventional, even academic. His first and the most famous composite picture, "Fading Away" (1858) was both popular and fashionably morbid. He was a follower of the pre-Raphaelites and was influenced by the aesthetic views of John Ruskin. In his Pre-Raphaelite phase he attempted to realise moments of timeless significance in a "mediaeval" setting, anticipating the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, Burne-Jones and the Symbolists. According to his letters, he was also influenced by the paintings of J.M.W. Turner.


*Ellen Handy, "Robinson, Henry Peach (1830–1901)", "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/41126 accessed 17 Dec 2007]

External links

* [http://www.geh.org/taschen/htmlsrc6/m197601160001_ful.html Fading Away] - From George Eastman House
* [http://www.museumsyndicate.com/artist.php?artist=262 Henry Peach Robinson] - From MuseumSyndicate
* [http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artMakerDetails?maker=1972 Henry Peach Robinson] - From J. Paul Getty Museum
* [http://www.libfl.ru/pre-raph/Robinson.html Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901)] - From British Council and M.I. Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature
* [http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/3/3_pss_exhibitors_robinson_0.htm Henry Peach Robinson 1830-1901] - From PSS (Photographic Society of Scotland) Exhibitors
* [http://www.rleggat.com/photohistory/history/robinson.htm Robinson, Henry Peach] - From "A History of Photography from its beginnings till the 1920s" by Robert Leggat

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