A NATIONAL Trust site near Romsey has launched an art exhibition to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

More than 50 original humorous pieces by Heath Robinson, who drew to raise morale during the war, are on display at Mottisfont. The exhibition, which is on until April 14, also includes audio transcripts of thankful letters from the troops and the public at home.

The display, marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, showcases Heath Robinson’s dry, ironic humour in the face of the World Wars. 

His cartoons include satirical depictions of soldiers at work and madcap contraptions designed to hoodwink enemy forces such as 'netting tanks' for intercepting parachutes. The exhibition also features unpublished sketches. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Art by Heath RobinsonArt by Heath Robinson (Image: The William Heath Robinson Trust)

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The artist received letters from troops at the front and the public at home thanking him for bringing a little joy into their lives. As part of the exhibition experience, visitors will be able to hear transcripts of some of these letters.

Letter to Heath Robinson by George Hawes, Lt Colonel, 19th Division, France on July 28, 1918: “You may remember that you very kindly drew a picture for my magazine when I was with the 23rdDiv – the Xmas of 1916–17. I am now returning to ask you whether you could possibly find the time to draw me a little picture for a Divisional Xmas Card for the 19th. Div with whom I am now serving. I am most diffident about asking and am only urged to by the knowledge of the very great pleasure a Xmas Card with a drawing by you would give all our men.”

Mr Robinson once said: “I believe that our sense of humour played a greater part than we were always aware of in saving us from despair during those days of trial.”

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Hampshire Chronicle: Art by Heath RobinsonArt by Heath Robinson (Image: The William Heath Robinson Trust)

Trained at the Royal Academy Schools, Robinson’s ambition was to become a landscape painter. However, to establish himself financially, the artist turned to book illustration. He illustrated works by Poe, Shakespeare, and Kipling, as well as writing and illustrating his own books. He became acclaimed for comical drawings for magazines.

By 1914, he had gained immense popularity and produced cartoons for popular magazines such as The Sketch and The Strand to raise the morale of both troops and civilians.

On loan from the Heath Robinson Museum, Heath Robinson at War runs from Saturday, January 20 to Sunday, April 14. The art gallery is open 11am-4pm (closing at 4.30pm from February 10) daily. Normal property admission price applies. Visitors can purchase Heath Robinson books from Mottisfont's on-site shop.

For more information go to nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/hampshire/mottisfont.