Thelwell: Ponies and Places exhibition at Mottisfont

16 January to 10 April, 11am - 5pm: we welcome 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. Admission to the gallery is free (normal property prices apply).

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 is particularly famous for his cartoons of mischievous ponies
Thelwell cartoon of a pony causing havoc at a fair

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 and captured the surrounding countryside in a series of stunning watercolours.

A view of Romsey Abbey in one of Thelwell's beautiful local landscapes
A view of Romsey Abbey in watercolour by Normal Thelwell

Our 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.

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.

Thelwell's country cartoons will bring a smile to your face
Two fishermen run at each other across a bridge in a cartoon by Norman Thelwell

Families visiting in February half term can enjoy a ‘Giddy Gallops’ activity trail inspired by the exhibition.

Children in coats and boots running across the lawn at Mottisfont, Hampshire

February half term fun at Mottisfont 

Enjoy a 'Giddy Gallops' activity trail at Mottisfont this February half term, Saturday 13 - Sunday 21 February.

There’s also a Thelwell-themed a ‘spot the detail’ trail in the gallery throughout the exhibition.

For anyone unable to access the upstairs gallery, we have digital versions of exhibitions on iPads which are available on lower levels.