Robertson ARE, Henry (1848–1930)

Robertson ARE, Henry (1848–1930)

British artist Henry Robertson spent his life capturing various seaside and waterside towns across Britain. His vivid scenes offer both a celebratory look and an interesting insight into life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Robertson was the son of Charles van der Meulen Robertson, a merchant in the West Indies. This was a lucrative business which enabled him to send his son to the Mansion Grammar school in Leatherhead, on the outskirts of London.

Despite having eight siblings, upon the death of his father in 1867 (his mother having died in 1860), Robertson was left a large sum of money. This enabled him to pursue art as a career despite, as some accounts record, his poor eyesight.
Robertson travelled rather frequently, living in various towns and cities across Britain. In 1877, he married Hamilton Campbell Barclay (1850-1922) in Scotland.

The couple would settle together in Ipswich, Norwich, and finally Hastings, although there is much to suggest they travelled elsewhere throughout the country.

What is common throughout all of these travels and resettlements is an interest in the coast and life beside the water. This is a passion reflected in Robertson’s art. His oeuvre is consumed with scenes of life on the water, from bustling harbours to mills on the banks of rivers.

There is a crystalline clarity to each of these scenes. Robertson utilises his watercolours well to capture the play of light upon the wavering waters and the cracking of the sun through turgid clouds. There is impressive detail in the boats which proudly cut crests through shimmering azure, in the wooden planks of the harbour dock, the people working on the waterside.

Robertson’s works are infused with both a refreshing realism yet have a slight air of romanticism which makes them gorgeous celebrations of the British coastline.

Robertson’s success is reflected in the numerous exhibitions he participated in. Taking part in regional displays, Robertson established a name for himself with the Ipswich Fine Art Club. The local press was keen to enthuse that ‘it is always a pleasure to see his work’ at their exhibitions, that he frequently ‘treats us’ with his pieces. Robertson would involve himself in the art scenes of the other places to which he moved, such as the Norfolk and Norwich Art Circle.

Robertson also found success exhibiting at national institutions. His work was displayed on three occasions at the Royal Academy, and in 1886 he became an associate member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, with whom he had previously exhibited for 13 years.

Henry Robertson settled for the last time in Bromley, in Greater London. He would die here in 1930. To his unmarried daughter, Pauline Robertson, he left a large sum of money, as his own parents had done. It seems Robertson’s life of painting electrically energised, crisply alive scenes of Britain’s waterside life had proved a success. Indeed, looking at his works, it is unsurprising to see why.


Born in Liverpool, Britain.


Married Hamilton Campbell Barclay.


Exhibited at Bury St Edmunds Fine Art Society.


Member of the Ipswich Fine Art Club.


Exhibited frequently at the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.


Became an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.


Exhibited at the Royal Academy.


Exhibited at Woodbridge Art Exhibition,


Exhibited at the Royal Academy.


Exhibited at the Royal Academy.


Moved to Norwich, Norfolk, Britain.


Exhibited at the Norfolk and Norwich Art Circle.


Wife Hamilton Campbell Barclay died.


Died in Bromley, Kent, Britain.

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