National Trust property Mottisfont welcomes in the New Year with a major exhibition from the private family archives of one of Britain’s most popular cartoonists, Norman Thelwell.
Best known for his hilarious cartoons of plump little girls on equally spherical ponies, these familiar pictures are joined by other satires of twentieth-century life, alongside beautiful paintings of local landscapes.
The exhibition, which features over 70 original artworks, includes many that have never been on show before.
First created in the 1950s and published extensively since, Thelwell’s pony cartoons are still easily recognisable today. The artist drew the endearing characters Penelope and her mischievous pony Kipper in hundreds of humorous scenarios, from ungainly jumps and gallops to the destruction of country fairs.
Thelwell also produced numerous other satirical cartoons, with astute and amusing observations on country life, from gardening and fishing to the upkeep of heritage properties.
While these images have given Thelwell a lasting reputation as a talented cartoonist, he is less well known for his beautiful landscape art. Thelwell lived close to Mottisfont – an idyllic country house in Hampshire, now owned by the National Trust – and captured the surrounding countryside in a series of stunning watercolours.
Mottisfont’s exhibition reveals many of these pictures, including images of Mottisfont itself, Romsey Abbey, and the landscape and villages of the Test Valley, brought to life by an extraordinary talent for naturalistic painting. Displayed alongside Thelwell’s well-loved cartoons, the exhibition demonstrates how the artist’s amusing observations on life in the country are rooted in a deep-seated love of the Hampshire landscape.
Also on display are a series of never-before-seen sketches and a selection of models which the artist created as prototypes for merchandise.
Both beautiful and funny, Thelwell’s work is the perfect antidote for those late winter blues. His wit is as fresh now as the day his watercolour and ink dried. Louise Govier, curator of the exhibition agrees:
‘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 realise that Thelwell included similar scenes as beautiful, detailed backdrops in all of his large colour cartoons. You can see Mottisfont’s estate and the surrounding countryside in many of his humorous works too, because this was the landscape that he loved, painted constantly and had in his imagination.’
Thelwell: Ponies and Places runs from 16 January to 10 April.
Mottisfont’s gallery opens at 11am and closes at 5pm (dusk if sooner).
Normal property admission price only.
Families visiting in February half term can enjoy a ‘Giddy Gallops’ activity trail inspired by the exhibition. There’s also a Thelwell-themed a ‘spot the detail’ trail in the gallery throughout the exhibition.
For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont or call 01794 340757.