Illustrations: Norman Thelwell
Words: Cally Callomon
Thelwell is mostly known for depicting fat women on horseback (to have it bluntly put) which has rather overshadowed his brilliance as a painter and as an angler. The rather late Keith Emerson is also remembered more for the top-heavy preposterous Tarkus that casts an obliterating shadow over his former electric greatness in The Nice and the VIPs (Moral: be careful what you have hits with) and Thelwell’s Estate have not been slow to count the cash on the enormous appeal of posh topsies on ponies, yet here we see a side to him that celebrates his native Somerset, his meandering amongst streams, his tussle with the carp, and his great, great appreciation of the outdoors whatever the weather.
Thelwell’s expertise (like Emerson’s) was not enough. The mere handling of paint is almost taken for granted. His expert and talented eye takes us into the realms of C. F. Tunnicliffe and Rex Whistler. If only we could surmount the immediate and rather damning moniker of ‘cartoonist’ we may see Thelwell as an equal to Ravilious and Bowden, a man who submitted to the outdoors in only the most splendid of ways.
I hope the attention this toe-in-the-water exhibition garners gives us all the lavish book of nature paintings by Thelwell we all deserve, with not a Pony Club in sight, just this once.