Thelwell exhibition at Mottisfont

Thelwell cartoon of a pony jump

Our first exhibition of 2019 will be a welcome return to the world of Norman Thelwell, featuring plump ponies, local landscapes, and social satire.

Thelwell: Laughter and Landscapes will be on display from Saturday 5 January – Monday 22 April 2019, 11am - 5pm (4pm until 3 February). Normal property admission price only. For visitors unable to access the second floor gallery, we have digital versions of exhibitions on iPads which are available on lower levels.

There'll be old favourites on show, including the antics of iconic characters Penelope and her mischievous pony, Kipper. Our exhibition also includes other astute and amusing observations on country life, satirical cartoons, and breath-taking landscapes.

Some of this work has never been shown publically before, including a selection of Thelwell’s early wartime sketches, which gave him a good foundation for illustrating people, animals and landscapes.

Many of Thelwell's early sketches have never been shown publically before
A sketch of soldiers by artist Norman Thelwell
Many of Thelwell's early sketches have never been shown publically before

Our exhibition takes a close look at Thelwell’s artistic life, from the popular cartoons which gave him international fame, to his watercolours depicting the English countryside, particularly the landscape of south Hampshire near Mottisfont – painted purely for pleasure. Both sets of work reveal a deep-seated love of the environment and a desire to protect it.  

First created for Punch in the early 1950s and published extensively since, Thelwell’s pony cartoons are still easily recognisable today. Thelwell drew the endearing characters Penelope and Kipper in hundreds of humorous scenarios, from ungainly jumps 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 is particularly famous for his cartoons of mischievous ponies

These cartoons were immensely popular, leading to the production of books and merchandise. As well as pony illustrations, our exhibition includes designs for book covers and ceramic models.  

There’ll also be a selection of Thelwell’s other humorous cartoons with astute and amusing observations of country life and pursuits, from the country houses to sailing and fishing.

One of the reasons Thelwell’s cartoons have endured is the skill in which they’re rendered: humorous situations take place in beautifully detailed landscapes. Exhibited alongside the well-known cartoons is a selection of Thelwell’s paintings, in which his extraordinary talent - and love of the local area - is clear to see.

The Cattle Bridge at Lynhay Meads, Hampshire, as painted by Thelwell
Cows beside the river at Lynhay Meads, Hampshire, painted by Norman Thelwell
The Cattle Bridge at Lynhay Meads, Hampshire, as painted by Thelwell

In contrast to the cartoons, which was how he earned a living, these paintings were a way of relaxing and enjoying his surroundings. Artworks on show include Thelwell’s paintings of Mottisfont, Romsey Abbey, the River Test at Timsbury and other local landscapes. We'll also be displaying some of Thelwell’s paint materials.

Thelwell’s passion for nature is evident in his satirical cartoons, many of which parody modern living and pressures on the environment. He used satire to convey serious messages about the need to preserve the natural world; touching on the EU, farming methods and other environmental issues, many of these still have poignancy today.

Thelwell often satired modern farming methods
A satirical cartoon 'Little Farmer Set' by Norman Thelwell
Thelwell often satired modern farming methods

Families visiting in February half term can enjoy a Country Capers activity trail inspired by Thelwell’s illustrations, and the exhibition display will include child-friendly labels. Our shop will stock a wide range of Thelwell merchandise.