Wednesday Illustrations: Robert Binks

Posted by on June 30th, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Drawn by Robert Binks, © 1972 by Little, Brown and Company, Inc.

Funny books don’t have illustrations anymore, unless you count photos. But a few decades ago, an adult could pick up a book with wide-set type and big margins and see some very good drawings next to the text.

Robert Binks did a set of charming illustrations for Ogden Nash’s final collection of poems, The Old Dog Barks Backwards. Who is he? Amazon and the Library of Congress list just a handful of titles for him. Most date from the early to mid-1970s, the same time as his work on The Old Dog Barks Backwards. There’s a jokey-sounding cookbook and three YA titles, and that’s it. Of course, Binks’ LOC entry may be a bit tricky. Old Dog doesn’t show up there, but the LOC’s entry for the book itself names him as illustrator.

If we’re talking about the same man, then Binks was in his mid-40s when he illustrated Nash’s book. Nash was in his late 60s when writing the poems, and he died the year before the book came out.

The art for Old Dog looks simple, but the drawing has body and there’s imagination along with the winsomeness. I have no idea why Binks isn’t better remembered, but at least we can save some of his work here.

First off, for the poem “And Lo! Honore’s Name Led All the Rest,” young Ogden Nash reading Honore de Balzac’s Droll Stories, which was dirty stuff for boys of the poet’s generation:

© 1972 by Little, Brown and Company, Inc.

Next, for “Beware of Easter Monday” (about the lack of fine dining the day after Easter):

© 1972 by Little, Brown and Company, Inc.

And for “A Dream of Innocent Orgies,” the young Nash again, this time dreaming of the turn-of-the-century showgirls he’s too young to chase:

© 1972 by Little, Brown and Company, Inc.

Finally, the book’s whole cover, front and back:

© 1972 by Little, Brown and Company, Inc.

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3 Responses to “Wednesday Illustrations: Robert Binks”

  1. WLLilly says:

    …I can’t say whether I ever read that book or not , when I saw the heading I thought of another late-end Nash book I remember reading ( Having ??????? ) when I was young , but , now seeing yr. posts a 2nd time , maybe I’m having a planted memory of reading this one planted inside me…:-)
    Anyway , the point that humorous books used to have noticeable cartoon illustrations is a good one !!!!!!! As a kid in the 70s , I tended to haunt the” 817 ” section of the libraries , and read many humorous books , often among a ” piece ” line ( Some of them , perhaps , would be marketed as ” memoirs ” to-day . ) , and they ofeten had cartoon illustartions of varying stripes…This was already sorta old-fashioned by me even in the 70s , these might’ve been heavily 60s , 50s , even earlier books .
    I’ve meant to bring up humorous book illustrations as a TCJ post , glad to see someone else who’s interested in them here !

  2. WLLilly says:

    …Looking now , I note how ” Nash ” is fairly consistently depicted , whatever the age .
    Did other Nash illustrations depict him like this ?

  3. Tom Crippen says:

    Yeah, that’s a nice touch. I’ve seen one other Nash book, illustrated by Milton Glaser, and there wasn’t any attempt to have the poet always look the same way.

    To tell the truth, I wouldn’t put the Glaser illos ahead of what Binks does here, despite the difference in the artists’ reputation and professional standing. They’re both good, and I’m surprised Binks didn’t have a bigger career than he did.