News ID: 134738
Published: 0730 GMT January 10, 2016

New exhibit shows more to Thelwell art than plump girls on fat ponies

New exhibit shows more to Thelwell art than plump girls on fat ponies

Little-known landscapes by the famed cartoonist Norman Thelwell are going on display, many for the first time, as part of a major exhibition by the National Trust in Britain.

He is best known for his fondly humorous evocations of country pursuits, from plump girls on fat ponies to frustrated anglers. But there was more to the art of Thelwell than just rotund girls careering through gymkhanas, the Telegraph reported.

Thelwell was also a talented landscape artist, and his little-known paintings of rural Hampshire are now being displayed, many for the first time, as part of a major exhibition by the National Trust.

The evocative watercolors include views of Mottisfont House — the National Trust property where the exhibition is being staged — along with Romsey Abbey, and the villages and landscape of Thelwell's beloved Test Valley.

Also on display will be a series of never-before seen sketches and a selection of ceramic figures which Thelwell made as prototypes for merchandise models of his cartoon characters.

Some of the landscapes may appear familiar to those who know the cartoons he produced from the 1950s onwards.

Indeed Thelwell , who was born into a working class family in Birkenhead, Merseyside, and first found work as a junior clerk in the Liverpool docks, used many of the settings of his landscapes as backdrop for his famous images of pony riders and angry fishermen.

Louise Govier, the curator of the National Trust exhibition, said: "Selecting the work for this exhibition has been the most wonderful job — we were constantly laughing. But the breath-taking landscapes were the real revelation, and once you've seen them you realize that Thelwell included similar scenes as beautiful, detailed backdrops in all of his large color cartoons."

Govier added: "It's very clear in the exhibition that Thelwell's landscape practice really does inform the wonderfully rich and naturalistic settings he creates for his outdoor cartoons.

"If you look at the River Test at Timsbury, you can see very similar river landscape and simple bridges in both of the cartoons — the 'Dry Fly Enthusiast' and 'The Compleat Tangler'."

Thelwell, who died in 2004, aged 80, had a natural sense of the absurd — evident in his cartoons — but the watercolors also show off the broad range of his artistic technique.

"He could be incredibly detailed, using jewel-like colors in 'Stair Hole', quite impressionistic in 'Stormy Morning' and 'Porthcawl'. More than anything, he loved to paint trees, for example 'Tree with Deer'," said Govier.

"Old and interesting country buildings also fascinated him, such as in 'Derelict Cottages' and 'Up Somborne'. I think these landscapes will be a revelation for Thelwell fans, and they're of a quality that even our most art loving visitors won't be expecting."

Thelwell first began sketching in 1941, when, at the age of 18, he was called up by the East Yorkshire Regiment as an infantryman. To avoid boredom he would carry a sketch book and paints and draw pen-and-ink drawings of fellow soldiers.

He was excused from training to stencil signs on vehicles and was later transferred to an intelligence section because of his ability to draw maps.

The exhibition of Norman Thelwell’s work runs from January 16 to April 10.

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