The first retrospective exhibition of artist and cartoonist Norman Thelwell opens its doors in London today, providing an overview of his work from childhood to the present day.

Beginning with a self-portrait of the artist aged 10, Thelwell’s work, from cartoons of his famous fat and hairy ponies to watercolour studies of the countryside, spans a wide range of styles, although his subject remains the same throughout: what he termed “the enduring lunacy of human nature” in rural life.

The exhibition consists of around 100 framed works including finished cartoons in colour and black and white, related preliminary drawings and a number of distinctive landscape watercolours.

Thelwell Country: 70 Years of Norman Thelwell has been organised by The Cartoon Art Trust, in collaboration with the artist’s family, and Southampton City Art Gallery. It opens today at The Mall Galleries, 17 Carlton House Terrace, SW1, and is on until 16 December.

During his career Thelwell produced 60 covers and 1,500 illustrations for Punch alone, as well as publishing 32 books in more than 30 languages.

Former editor of London’s Evening Standard and chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Max Hastings said of Thelwell’s work: “Norman Thelwell honed his talent in a fashion that has placed him today among the legends of his generation. He is, first and foremost, a master of his pen; second, he loves and knows intimately the English countryside.

“Dotty adulterous huntsmen, grumpy tractor drivers, little old village ladies, above all pony-mad pre-teens are meat and drink to him – and to us.”

Exhibition dates

  • 6 Jan – 6 Feb: The Cartoon Art Trust, Bruswick, London WC1
  • 14 Feb – 18 April: The Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead
  • June – August: Gressenhall Rural Life Museum, Norfolk
  • August – October: Ntional Horse Racing Museum, Newmarket

For more information visit: www.mallgalleries.org.uk or www.cartooncentre.com

  • Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s special feature on the work of Norman Thelwell in the current issue (27 November).