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Thomas Osborne Robinson

Thomas Osborne Robinson OBE (1904-1976) was a theatrical designer based in Northampton. He was inspired to become a scenery and costume designer when in 1921 (aged 17) he saw Diaghilev’s Russian ballet ‘The Sleeping Princess’, with scenery and costumes by Leon Bakst. He trained at Northampton School of Art alongside G.H.B. Holland. From 1928 to 1975 he was scenic designer and later Head of Design for Northampton Repertory Theatre, based at the Royal Theatre. He designed more than 3,000 sets and thousands of costumes for them. In 1937 he designed the set and costumes for Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet at the Old Vic, produced by Tyrone Guthrie. He also designed the set and costumes for Richard III at the Old Vic that year, and was offered a permanent post at the Old Vic by Lillian Bayliss, which he did not accept. In the 1930s-40s he designed sets and costumes for a number of productions in Stratford, including Macbeth and As You Like It. In the 1950s-60s he designed productions and murals for universities in the USA, including Vanderbilt University, Tennessee; Howard Payne College, Texas; and Stanford University, California. He was Chairman of the Association of Stage Designers in 1949-51; a member of the Arts Council Drama Panel in 1967-9; and Chairman of the Friends of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery in 1955-76. In 1969 he was awarded an OBE for services to arts. He lived on Derngate in Northampton.

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Fishermen at Concarneau, Brittany
A watercolour measuring 13¾” x 16½”. Signed Osborne Robinson. Provenance: exhibited at the memorial exhibition in Northampton Art Gallery in 1977 (No. 54).

The Subject
Concarneau is France’s third most important fishing port. This is a view from the ramparts…

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…of the medieval walled town (ville close) which sits within the harbour, and depicts fishermen crossing the bridge into the walled town. The woman on the left is dressed in traditional Breton costume.

Tinkers, County Wicklow, Ireland
A watercolour measuring 17½” x 20¾”. Signed T. Osborne-Robinson. Faded label verso: ‘Tinkers, Co. Wicklow’.

The Subject
A red gipsy caravan and company cross a viaduct over a ravine, with craggy mountains looming behind them.