Tom Robb was born in Edinburgh in 1933. His father was an engineer, his grandparents farmers and fishermen. When he was six his family moved to Carlisle, close to the airfield where his father inspected Spitfires and Lancaster bombers. He won a scholarship to grammar school and won a place in an art school in 1948 due to his exceptional gift for drawing and painting. He gained a place at the Royal College of Art but two years of National Service in Germany delayed his entry.
His tutors at college included Rodney Burn, Rodrigo Moynihan, John Minton (who he was particularly close with) and Carel Weight. His contemporaries included Ken Howard, Peter Blake and R.B. Kitaj. He was a close friend of Carel Weight till his death in 1997. He married Jeannie in 1958, they had two children and remained together till her death in 2008.
Immediately after leaving the RCA, Robb got a full-time teaching post in Wigton then later at Hornsey College of Art where he taught a generation of artists including Anish Kapoor. He moved to Putney in 1971 and became a keen sailor and later Commodore of Ranelagh Sailing club.
In 1983, publisher Phoebe Phillips approached him to contribute to a new book based on the art school year called Painter’s Progress, edited by his close friend Ian Simpson who was head of St Martin’s College of Art. This began a lifelong friendship with Phoebe and he went on to publish 26 books with her, mostly on painting and drawing but also on collecting and antiques. He was an active member of the Langham Sketch Club in Chelsea and continued to draw from life well into his 80’s. He was very gifted in all practical matters, an expert book-binder and print-maker, an engineer and a true craftsman.
Tom Robb – Summer Clouds, 1972 (Leicestershire County Council Artworks Collection)