probus hears about thelwell
Readers, probably over the age of thirty-five, when the name of Thelwell is mentioned, will recall pictures of small, fat, hairy ponies ridden at full tilt by alarming young ladies.
But, as speaker Tim Craven explained, Norman Thelwell’s range as a cartoonist went far beyond ponies and included fishing, gardening, house hunting, motoring, sailing, dogs, cats, farming, stately homes, children and country pursuits, many given the Thelwell treatment. There was much more to this artist than first appears as the speaker went on to outline.
Born into a terraced house near Birkenhead, he had an affinity for drawing. Joining the army at eighteen in 1941 his artistic talent managed to keep away from hostilities while he developed cartoon illustrations of military life. He came to recognise that selling a picture to a magazine was worth more than a month’s army pay so it dawned on him that there could be a living to be made using his artistic talent.
Becoming an art teacher after the war, his freelance work grew so much he gave up paid employment and worked for Punch magazine for twenty-five years and several national newspapers. He went on to produce 32 books selling over 2 million copies in several languages all in his now familiar cartoon style.
By 2001 Norman Thelwell was no longer a public figure and had lived for thirty-five years near Romsey in Hampshire. Art curator Tim Craven became involved in the conservation of Thelwell’s water colour painting, many of which were of landscapes to such high standard that they could sit alongside those of the greatest English artists.
There have been several exhibitions of Thelwell’s artwork, showing his various styles with one exhibition attracting 64,000 visitors. Today, a century after his birth, it is still possible to use Thelwell’s images for many types of merchandising opportunities, so the drawings of his small, fat, hairy ponies continue to be seen.
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