The Frederick Cayley Robinson connection


It took me some years to track down how Frederick (or Frederic – the name is spelt both ways) Cayley Robinson (1862-1927) fitted into Cayley genealogy. For those of you who don’t know of him (and Cayley Robinson is not a household name), he was an artist and is probably best known for a series of four large oil paintings, collectively called Acts of Mercy, painted between 1915 and 1920 for the Middlesex Hospital in London. One (illustrated in this post) shows soldiers wounded in World War 1; another, a woman thanking a doctor for treating her daughter; two show the refectory of an orphanage. They are now in the collection of the Wellcome Library, and there was a special exhibition of them at the National Gallery, London in 2010. There is an article on these paintings from The Guardian newspaper at and you can find a good summary of Cayley Robinson’s artistic career at

Cayley Robinson – he is never known just as ‘Robinson’, always as ‘Cayley Robinson’ – was descended from one of the Cayley Russia merchants, John Cayley (1761-1831), son of the John Cayley who was British Consul in St Petersburg. John Cayley junior and his second wife Harriett Raikes (daughter of another Russia merchant) had ten children, of whom the last, Harriet (1800-1879), married Charles Robinson, a London banker, in 1821. One of their sons, was Frederic Robinson, a stockbroker, and Frederick Cayley Robinson was Frederic’s son.

As far as I know, Frederick Cayley Robinson is the only significant British artist to be descended from Cayleys. In Australia, from a completely different family came the bird artists Neville Henry Peniston Cayley and his better-known son Neville William Cayley – see Australian Bird Painter’s Family. If anyone knows of other Cayley-linked major artists, do get in touch.

[Painting credit: Wellcome Library, London: copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0]




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