painter and illustrator, was born in Leeds. He studied art in England under Richard Waller, then in Antwerp under Verlat. He travelled to New Zealnd for health reasons in 1885 and later lived in Sydney c.1887-89, where he exhibited the the Royal Art Society of NSW and reputedly worked for the Bulletin . He returned to England in 1889 where he worked as an illustrator, taking frequent trips to Egypt. He returned to NZ in 1895 and died at Dunedin in 1896 (Edward D. Craig, Australian Art Auction Records 1975-78 ).

Exhibited Art Society of NSW in the eighth annual exhibition in 1887: 'Atkinson narrowly missed making a great picture out of his “Eviction” but the drawing is by no means equal to the painting, and he seems to have absolutely no sense of proportion. His “Sunshine” is conventional, although it contains good work’ ( Bulletin , 24 December 1887, 9). 'Mr Atkinson is a New Zealand artist of rising fame … His “Evicted” [is one of four pictures] which would arrest the attention of the spectator by reason of their pronounced character. ... [“Evicted”] has many admirable points. The story is well told. ... The child is not well done. It is out of drawing and is not in proportion to the other figures. But outside these minor points, the picture has much that is good in it … Mr Atkinson’s portrait picture “Sunshine” has much character and skill in it, and much of talent too. The dress is not well chosen, perhaps and the figure might easily have been placed to much greater advantage, but nevertheless the artist has produced a fine effect altogether. The sunshine falling on the hair, the face in shade, with some reflected light upon the chin and lips and the red transparency of the ears and finger tips are most cleverly worked’ ( Sydney Morning Herald , 8 December 1887, 7). '... the Art Society is to be congratulated in having enlisted a man of his talent in their ranks; he sends three exhibits, No.41 “A Hot Day at Waitamata” is at first unprepossessing and cold; after a while, however, you begin to realise that this is not through any mere unintentional discoloration … the painter has sought to render faithfully and during the discoloring hours of noon the peculiar atmospheric effect of an Australian hot day … In no.54 “Sunshine” ... at his best; the subject, a pretty girl on a swing’ ( Australian Art , January 1888, 2-3).

Exhibited in the ninth annual exhibition of the Art Society of NSW in 1889: His Delicate Question was seen as an 'attempt to realise the genuinely Australian picture’ ( Bulletin , 29 September 1888, 8). 'Mr Robert Atkinson is one of the late additions to the society. His picture “A Delicate Question”, takes a high place for skilful treatment of a thoroughly Australian picture. The shingle roof, the weatherboard wall of the house, the surroundings and tones, are all most natural and effective; the figures are finely drawn, and the treatment of the artist shows a freshness equal to the perennial charm of the subject’ ( Sydney Mail , 29 September 1888, pp.662-666). 'Of essentially colonial subjects, the picture by Mr Robert Atkinson, entitled “A Delicate Question”, claims precedence. Leaning against the corner of the weatherboard homestead, a the end of a shingle-roofed verandah, stands a young squatter, evidently shaping the momentous question to a young girl, whose attitude attention to a welcome subject; the greyhound looks in puzzled surprise. Far off the blue Australian sky is seen, and there is a fidelity in conception and felicity in treatment which make a very pleasant picture’ ( Sydney Mail , 22 September 1888, 614). An engraving of his A Delicate Question appeared in the Illustrated Sydney News 27 September 1888, 7.

Exhibited in the Art Society’s autumn watercolour and black-and-white exhibition ( Sydney Morning Herald , 1 April 1889, 4).

Re Art Society tenth annual exhibition: 'Mr Robert Atkinson, now in New Zealand, will send an “Old Orchard at Richmond” and possibly some of his studies of New Zealand scenery’ ( Sydney Morning Herald , 7 September 1889, p.7). 'Mr R. Atkinson in “A Hot Day in New Zealand” shows a poetic yet bold and truthful bit of nature finely painted, “The Old Orchard, Richmond”, contains good work and elaborate detail; but it lacks the artistic feeling which is so strongly revealed in the first’ ( Sydney Mail , 12 October 1889, p.812). 'Mr Robert Atkinson is represented [among the watercolours] by “A Sunny Corner, Auckland” which is a study of wood and garden luxuriance. It is genuinely true to feeling and is well handled’ ( Sydney Morning Herald , 4 October 1889, 5).

See Illustrated Sydney News 14 November 1889, 20, re New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-90, NSW Court: “The Chief’s Daughter” by R. Atkinson, exhibited as part of a collection of paintings from Art Society of NSW.

Re exhibition of Art Society: 'Mr Robert Atkinson has only one work in the exhibition, a water-colour, entitled “The Chief’s Daughter”, an intelligent-looking Maori child lying in a hut’ ( Sydney Morning Herald , 13 September 1890, 5).

Edward Craig records the sale of two watercolours in 1975-78: Bringing in the Dinner , Christie’s April 1976 ($192) and A Lady in Evening Clothes seated in a red chair 1893, Christie’s July 1977 ($200)

Kerr, Joan
Date written:
Last updated: