Frederick Cayley ROBINSON

Painter in oil and watercolour of genre and figure subjects, also murals, illustration and stage design

Born in Brentford, Middlesex, and educated at the Lycee de Pau, St Johns Wood School and RA Schools from 1884, and the Academie Julian (1890-92). From 1898-1902 he studied and worked in Italy, and then in Paris until 1906. After his studies in Paris, the Robinsons moved to St Ives where they stayed in the holiday cottages of writers Edith and Havelock Ellis.

Lived and worked in Lamorna for a year (1906) and became close friends of the Birch family. Wormleighton notes that Lamorna BIRCH, followed the guidance he had been given by Robinson. The latter who painted in flat tones in tempera and watercolour, concentrating on the rectilinear aspects of composition and often symbolist in style, had encouraged Birch in Cornwall to pursue the decorative approach to landscape work. Birch was a great admirer of Robinson's technique. The two men developed a strong understanding and shared confidences and the family were frequent visitors to Flagstaff. Robinson's gentle and generous character is well characterised in Laver's essay on the artist and his work.

When in London, and a bed was available in his studio, Birch would stay with the Robinsons in their Holland Park home, when visiting the RA or for other occasional events. Robinson was slow and painstaking, viewing life in soft neutral shades and according to Dr David Brown of the Tate Gallery, "almost consciously evading his own worldly success." Lamorna KERR in the narration of her childhood in the Lamorna Valley (Hardie), consistently spoke of Cayley-Robinson as the distinguished designer of the stage production of Maeterlinck's Blue Bird. He also illustrated a children's book with 25 coloured plates on the same theme. From 1910-14 he painted mural decorations for the Middlesex Hospital. Over the years 1914-24 he fulfilled the post of Professor at Glasgow School of Art, spending three months of each year in Scotland. He designed some posters for the London Midland and Scottish Railway.


Painter in oils and watercolours

works and access

Access: BM; Cambridge (Fitzwilliam); Dublin; Liverpool; V&A; Adelaide; Canadian National Collection; Cape Town; Italian National Collections; Luxembourg; Paris; Rome

Works include:  Balcony; The Call of the Sea (1925), a.k.a. The Sailor's Departure Friends' Meeting; Dawn; Souvenir of a Past Age; The Word; The Ferry; Drifting; The Fisherman; The Death of Abel, The Close of Day; The Foundling; Fata Morgana; The Depth of Winter Pastoral (1923/4) (Chantry Bequest Purchase); The Old Nurse (1926) at the BM, Pastoral (1923-4) at Tate, and Self Portrait (1898) at the NPG.

P Webling (1913) Saints and Their Stories, illus by Cayley Robinson (8 col pls)

Acts of Mercy: Two of the set are entitled The Doctor forming a pair, and two are entitled Orphans also forming a pair. Robinson's masterpiece created between 1916-20 is comprised of four large-scale allegorical works 'which explore the positive forces of the human spirit in the face of destruction.' (Natl. Gallery) The panels were commissioned for the Middlesex Hospital, and when the hospital closed, the paintings were bought (2009) and preserved by the Wellcome Trust, where they will in future be displayed at the entrace to the Wellcome Library, London, when they are not on exhibition elsewhere.


LEI (95) RBA (37)

2010: Frederick Cayley Robinson, Acts of Mercy, National Gallery Sunley Room Exh in collaboration with Tate Britain (Jul-Oct).


ARA: 1921; RWS: 1919; RBA: 1888; ROI: 1906; NEAC: 1912 (resigned after 2 exhibitions)




Chantrey Bequest list- Tate On-line

Hardie In Time and Place Lamorna;  (2009) Artists/Newlyn & West Cornwall

Johnson & Greutzner

J Laver (1925) Portraits in Oil and Vinegar London: J Castle pp91-8 (with pl of The Long Journey p93)

C Marriott (See repr in Hardie 2009);

Obituary Times (6 Jan 1927)

RA Directory of Membership

Schupbach, William (2009, rev 2010) Acts of Mercy, The Middlesex Hospital paintings by FCR (1862-1927) Published by Wellcome Collection

Tovey, David (2022) Lamorna - An Artistic, Social and Literary History - Volumes I & II, Wilson Books

Who Was Who 1916-1928

Wormleighton A Painter Laureate

C Wood (2008) Victorian Painters (Large Bibl)