Sunday, 20 December 2009

The lure of illustrated children's books

‘The Sparrow’s Nest’ John Bewick
"Few things evoke childhood memories as powerfully as picture books. Jenny Uglow looks at favourites old and new."

Article by Jenny Uglow in Saturday's Guardian. You can read it by clicking here.
"Soon London publishers such as John Newbery were producing tiny books such as the Little Pretty-Pocket Book, the size of a child's hand. At the same time the great French fairytales were translated into English, soon followed by the exotic Arabian Nights. These, too, appeared in children's editions, often with tiny postage-stamp pictures, like early comic strips, but occasionally with fine illustrations such as the meticulous wood-engravings of Thomas and John Bewick."

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Jenny Uglow by Paul Laity.

Jenny Uglow. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

'I like biography so much – because it's somehow easier being somebody else'

Saturday's Guardian included a double page feature on Jenny Uglow. The article makes several references to Thomas Bewick, the subject of her 2006 "Nature's Engraver"

"It is at home in Canterbury, now cluttered again with young children's toys, that she works on her books – as sharply detailed, humane and entertaining as Bewick's woodcuts."

Jenny's new book is "A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration"

Paul Laity's article can be found here.

A review of "A Gambling Man" can be found here.

Details of "Nature's Engraver" can be found here.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Last Avison Lecture

The final presentation in the series of lectures on the life and times of Avison will take place tomorrow as follows


Jane Colborne

24/11/2009 7pm

An illustrated presentation on the process and importance of the restoration of the Avison workbooks.

Charles Avison Building

City Library
33 New Bridge St West
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 1RD

No ticket required. Free entry on the door.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Venerable Bede

Bewick beaten in vote by Bede.
BBC Newcastle and Radio 3 audiences voted the medieval monk and chronicler the Venerable Bede as the greatest Free Thinker in the history of the North East. Professor Richard Gameson of Durham University explains why he believes Bede was a natural choice.
You can listen to The Essay here.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Closing Soon

Just to remind you that the acclaimed exhibition "Thomas Bewick: Tale-pieces" currently at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle ends on Sunday 18th October.

The Bewick Society will be having an informal gathering and conversation on the exhibits in the exhibition space on Saturday 17th October from 2-4pm.

Our Chairman, Hugh Dixon and other members of the committee will be in attendance to lead the discussions. Hope to see you there.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Vote for Thomas Bewick

BBC Radio Three is bringing its annual festival Free Thinking - A Festival of Ideas, to the Sage, Gateshead on 23-25 October 2009.
You can find lots of information about the weekend's events on the Radio Three website here.

They are running an online poll to find the "the Greatest North-East Free Thinker". The short list was drawn up with the help of the Literary and Philosophical Society. It includes Bede (672/673-735), Josephine Butler (1828-1906) and Ellen Wilkinson (1891-1947).

Among the free thinking luminaries is Thomas Bewick who receives this citation: "Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) - Printmaker and illustrator who revived the art of wood engraving, and whose work in the genre remains unsurpassed. His most famous work is his History of British Birds, with illustrations often based on his own watercolours."

The winning candidate will be the subject of a specially commissioned essay, to be decided on the eve of the Free Thinking weekend, and then recorded live at Free Thinking for broadcast on Radio 3 at 11.00pm on Friday October 30th.

This event will be broadcast in Radio 3's The Essay on Friday 30 October.

Click here to go to the voting page where you can cast your own vote. The vote closes at midnight on the 16th October, and the result will be announced in Night Waves on 19th October.

Monday, 5 October 2009


"Thomas Bewick and his apprentices. Luke Clennell and Robert Johnson."

Lecture delivered Monday 5th October, Newcastle Arts Centre, Westgate Road. Part of the Visions strand of the Explore Membership Scheme of the North East Centre for Lifelong Learning.

Text available online at PQ Notes and Lectures.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

William Henry Toms (c1700-1756)

Noticed on the bulletin of the Historic Libraries Forum

William Henry Toms (c1700-1756)

Ed Potten is interested in tracing material, archival or printed, relating to the eighteenth-century engraver William Henry Toms for an ongoing bibliography and biography. Based in London, Toms was active from the late 1720s, engraving plates for books, maps, plans, bookplates and a wealth of single-sheet views and portraits. Any information gratefully

Friday, 25 September 2009

Annual General Meeting

The Bewick Society held its AGM on Thursday evening. After the formalities we visited the Bewick display on floor 6 of the City Library. We were able to leaf through some rare items from the collection including Moral Instructions of a Father to his Son..and Select Fables of the most important occasions in life, extracted from Dodsley, and others, adorned with emblematical cuts. The third edition.Newcastle: printed by and for T.Saint, 1775. [Number 2 in the Pease Bequest]

Here is the Chairman's Report.

The Bewick Society's 21st Annual General Meeting
24th September 2009
The Chairman's Report
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honour to welcome you to the 21st Annual General Meeting of the Bewick Society. It is a pleasure to do so in Newcastle City Library, now transformed phoenix-like from its old self into this great new Charles Avison Building. And for us it is particularly good to be here in the new Bewick Hall! This is the kind of recognition we like for Thomas. We congratulate all concerned on the new building, and we extend thanks to the Director of Library and Information Services and the staff for making this meeting possible. In particular we are grateful to Katherine Cassidy, Senior Librarian and now Service Manager: Heritage, for suggesting that we should meet here and for making the arrangements; we look forward to her guided tour after this meeting.

It has been another busy year. Your Committee met on seven occasions and there have also been sub-committee meetings for projects which will be mentioned in a moment. Our activities have followed a familiar pattern. Following this meeting last year, David Gray spoke on Bewick's influence on French engraving; and in November Jenny Uglow united two of her interests in talking on gardening in Bewick's time. Members joined National Trust Volunteers at Cherryburn for a Christmas gathering hosted by Stewart Thirkell. In January there was a very well attended 'Enthusiasms' meeting in the novel setting of the Friends Meeting House in Jesmond. The many contributions included a memorable poetic interlude from Keith Armstrong, some thoughts on Bewick and the Brontes from Peter Osborne, and the discovery by Peter Quinn of an edition of Bewick's Memoir in Swedish! As in the past, we hope that some of these enthusiasms will be developed into wider discussion or publication.

For our summer walk we went north, and David Gardner-Medwin unravelled the background and connections of Thomas Bewick's paternal grandparents as we walked from Kirkheaton to Kirkharle. The weather was kind most of the time; spirits were not dampened even if other bits were. Success of activities relies on support of members; and yet again our Membership Secretary, June Holmes, can report an increase in membership. The growth and retention of members is the result in no small measure of June's friendly administration and her splendid Newsletter. Under the careful stewardship of our Hon. Treasurer, Peter Quinn, our healthy finances made it possible, along with normal Society expenditure, to assist with the purchase of books generously made available at half value from her collection by Society member Ada Radford. The books were allocated to the Natural History Society of Northumbria and Cherryburn. David Gray, as our Editor, has produced two editions of Cherryburn Times giving permanence to two of our excellent lectures: Peter Osborne on Ruskin's Annotations to Bewick's Birds and Peter Quinn on Bewick and Scotland. With Ian McKie's technical assistance, and contributions from others, David has also revised the Society's website with excellent results.

On the publicity front we have made what I hope you will agree is one striking advance. The Society's advertising banner, displayed for the first time at Bewick's 256th Birthday celebrations at Cherryburn in August, and now here tonight, is the result of contributions from Stewart Thirkell, Peter Osborne, David Gray and our technical wizard consultant Ian Mckie. We are grateful to them all; and we believe that the banner will be a great help in promoting Bewick on many occasions.

We have also started work on two projects which should be of great significance to Bewick studies. Thomas Bewick had a profound interest in the illustration of fables throughout his working life from the Select Fables of the 1770s to two majestic editions of his own Aesop in 1818 and 1823. In partnership with the University of Newcastle we intend to hold a study day on Fables early next year. There will be contributions from authorities on fables setting Thomas Bewick's contribution in context. It is intended to publish the proceedings. Please keep watch for further information. The other project will be more time-consuming but equally useful. The purpose is to record all Thomas Bewick's vignettes, their first appearance and subsequent use. This mammoth task, proposed by Peter Osborne is being led by Peter and David Gardner-Medwin and will need a team of researchers.

That there is still work to do is shown by the Hancock Museum. This has been rebuilt and extended as the Great North Museum: Hancock which now embraces the Museum of Antiquities, and the University's Greek and Egyptian collections. While respecting the museum's novel focus, it difficult not to comment from our particular viewpoint. Thomas Bewick was, arguably, the greatest artist - that the North East has produced, pre-eminent as engraver and illustrator; he was also one of our most important pioneering naturalists. This was acknowledged in the old Hancock Museum with a small but telling exhibition. It is disappointing to record that no space has been found for Bewick in the museum's splendid new displays. The only mention of Thomas Bewick is in relation to a present sent to the Literary and Philosophical Society by James Hunter, the second Governor of New South Wales. This, the first Wombat specimen to be seen in England, appeared in the 4th edition (1800) of Bewick's A General History of Quadrupeds. No doubt, as exhibitions develop, there will opportunities for fuller acknowledgement of Thomas Bewick's significance, and it will be our business to ensure that those opportunities are not missed.

We are keen to acknowledge the efforts of others in promoting the name of Bewick. An excellent exhibition on Bewick's Tailpieces mounted by the IKON Gallery in consultation with Iain Bain has had a spell at Birmingham and is on show at the Laing Art Gallery until Sunday 18th October. We hope members will see the exhibition and will join a valedictory visit and discussion at the Gallery on 17th October. I am grateful to colleagues for noting two other Bewickian events both in December - the opening of a large new restaurant in Gateshead Civic Centre called Bewicks with appropriate decorations including metallic versions of TB's signature. As dramatic but more ephemeral was the Glow Festival's projection of Bewick images onto Newcastle's Town Walls.

Next year promises much. As well as the usual programme of events, and the activity around the fables and vignettes projects, we look forward with excitement to the publication of Nigel Tattersfield's study of The Illustrated Work of Thomas Bewick. This multi-volumed work promises to be a major event in the long and distinguished history of publications on Bewick. We expect publication in the spring; we have invited Nigel to come to a northern launch; and, in return for a modest contribution towards publication costs from the Society, it is hoped to offer members copies at a modest discount. We hope to have more precise information soon. The Bewick Society exists to promote interest in Thomas Bewick, to conserve, exhibit and publicise his work. With your help, that is what we will continue to do into our second twenty-one years.
Hugh Dixon 2009

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Society of Wood Engravers

72nd Annual Exhibition

The 72nd Annual Exhibition will take place from 22nd September 2009 until 4th October 2009 at:

The Bankside Gallery
48 Hopton Street
London SE1 9JH

The exhibition will include an additional display of the 25 engravings from the BOX 25 that were commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the refounding of the Society.
Open daily 11am – 6pm.
72nd Annual Exhibition Private View

The Private View of the 72nd Annual Exhibition will take place from 6pm – 8pm on Wednesday 23rd September 2009 at The Bankside Gallery.

Box 25

Twenty-five prints, each 5 x 5 inches, each based on a number 1 to 25 by members of the Society of Wood Engravers to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the refounding of the Society.

To learn more, please click here.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Next Avison Lecture

The Hexham Massacre Of 1761
John Sadler
Tuesday, September 8, 2009 - 7:00pm
Part narrative, part drama this presentation casts a dark and different light on Avison’s Georgian context.

Venue Details:
Brunswick Methodist Church
Brunswick Place
Newcastle upon Tyne
Ticket Details: Free entry on the door.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Laing Lunch-time Lecture

Wednesday 16 September, 12.30 - 1.30pm, Laing Art Gallery.

Jonathan Watkins, director of Ikon, will be talking about his role in curating the Thomas Bewick: Tale-Pieces exhibition. No booking required.

The exhibition continues until 18 Oct 2009.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sunday 9 August 2009 Bewick’s Birthday Celebrations at Cherryburn. ‘An After Lunch Conversation’

Birthday Celebrations
Originally uploaded by Bewick Society
An occasion to gather and celebrate Bewick’s birthday, as well as a chance to meet the experts, show them your collection and maybe join in the after lunch conversations.

We have invited a local collector of antique canes to come along on the day to show us his latest acquisition – John Bewick’s swagger stick – a rare and exciting find.

There will also be a birthday cake, so please do come and join us!

Date and time: Sunday 9 August from 1.30 pm. The ‘Conversation’ starts at 2.30 pm.

Venue: Cherryburn, Station Road, Mickley Square, near Stocksfield, Northumberland NE43 7DD.

Admission: Admission charges apply. National Trust and Bewick Society members free on production of a valid card.

Friday, 31 July 2009

New Course

The Natural History Society of Northumbria has announced the launch of a series of exciting courses for natural history (including geology) enthusiasts.

* Led by recognised experts
* Informal atmosphere
* No entry requirements
* Written work optional
* Enthusiasm essential!

Most indoor meetings will be held at the Great North Museum: Hancock. The courses will be 10 meetings in length, unless otherwise stated. Indoor meetings will last 2 hours.

Among the courses on offer is Bewick in context with Dr Peter Quinn, Thursdays from 8th October, 2pm.

For more information and the sign-up form click here to go to the website of The Natural History Society of Northumbria.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Aesthetics of Avison

Originally uploaded by Bewick Society
Please note that the next in the Avison series of lectures will be as follows:

The Aesthetics of Avison
Ian Ground
Brunswick Methodist Church - 28/7/09 - 7pm

Avison Essay on Musical Expression has long been recognised a major and original contribution. This lecture will demonstrate the philosophical context of his ideas and relate his distinctive contribution to modern day developments in the philosophical task of understanding the nature of music.

About the Speaker
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sunderland and author of books and papers in philosophical aesthetics

Friday, 10 July 2009

David Whetstone reviews "Tale-pieces" at the Laing Art Gallery.

"LET’S not kid ourselves about the olden days – the early 1800s, say. There wasn’t much on the telly, so you had to find your pleasures where you could. If that meant putting a baby in a cart tethered to a dog which had a cat tied in front of it, pointing the whole shebang in the direction of a river, providing some exuberant encouragement with a long stick and letting nature take its course, then so be it!"

From Thomas Bewick's unflinching view of life Jul 7 2009 By David Whetstone, The Journal.

Read the whole review on the Journal's website by clicking here.

The show is on until October 18th.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

"Music is an emanation from heaven"

The Avison Society continues its year of celebration with a special concert. Details below from their press release.


A Triple Anniversary Celebration!

THURSDAY July 9th at 7.30pm
St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Avison Ensemble presents this special event at St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne, as part of the Avison tercentenary celebrations.

James Bowman (Counter tenor) and Dr Andrew Gant (Organist, Choirmaster and Composer at Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal) and other members of the Chapel Royal Choir with the Avison Ensemble perform anthems by Handel and Purcell that were written specially for the Chapel Royal. The programme includes an anthem by Charles Avison, previously unheard in modern times due to a missing part, which has been composed by Andrew Gant, especially to complete the work for this performance.

2009 celebrates the tercentenary of the birth of Newcastle-born composer, Charles Avison in 1709 and the City is in celebration of the occasion! This year also marks the 250th anniversary of the death of Handel in 1759 and the 350th anniversary of the birth of Purcell in 1659.

This concert is a triple celebration of 3 of the most important composers of the baroque period.

Gordon Dixon, CEO of the Avison Ensemble said: “2009 is a unique celebration. Two of England’s most important composers of choral music share an anniversary with Avison who, though he worked in the Cathedral at Newcastle most of his life, wrote only one anthem. It is a great opportunity to bring this interesting piece back into use.”

The Chapel Royal has been in existence since before the Norman Conquest, and in its early years its function was mainly peripatetic, accompanying the Monarch around the country and indeed beyond: the Chapel Royal went with Henry V to Agincourt, where Mass was sung before the battle, and with Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. In Tudor times it played a major role in enhancing the splendour and magnificence of the court and The King, and in addition to their musical duties the Children were required to act in plays, masques and pageants to impress important visitors.

The Chapel had a unique role in the development of English church music, partly because it had the power to "impress" the best choristers from around the country, and partly because as the Monarch's private Chapel it was, to a certain extent at least, immune from the severe restrictions placed on the composition and use of music by the various religious reforms of the 16th and 17th centuries. It thus employed many leading musicians, including Cornyshe, Fayrfax, Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Blow, Purcell, Handel, S.S.Wesley and Arthur Sullivan.

Made up of some of Europe’s leading musicians and soloists, The Avison Ensemble is the North East’s most famous exponent of 18th century music as well as being the standard bearer for Charles Avison. A composer, conductor, organist and writer of music, Avison is considered by many to be the most important English concerto composer of that period.

The Ensemble uses period instruments to recreate the distinctive ‘sound world’ that Avison would have known. The Avison Ensemble is a Regularly Funded Organisation by Arts Council England.

Tickets: £12 from JG Windows Ltd, Central Arcade, Newcastle upon Tyne."

Click here to go to their website for full details and other events.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Carrie Ackroyd

Carrie Ackroyd will be talking about her work to The Friends of the Hatton Gallery on Tuesday 16th June at 6.30 in the Hatton Gallery.

"The FOTH’s next talk will attract those interested in watercolour, prints, linocut, engraving, book-illustration, ecology and the preservation of the landscape. It is by Carry Akroyd, painter, printmaker, illustrator, resident of rural East Northamptonshire and member of the Society of Wildlife Artists."

"Those familiar with John Clare’s poetry will know her illustrations of The Shepherd’s Calendar (2006) and The Wood is Sweet (2005). Or if you have seen The Great Fen (2006), you will have found her paintings which derive from and represent, but do not slavishly depict, the natural world. Like Clare, whom she greatly admires, she wishes to depict and deplore the changes in the landscape while recognizing both the beauty and the necessity of change. You might have seen her latest exhibition at the Byard Gallery in Cambridge. In any case you can get a preview of her work at"

Illustration is "Blackbird" from John Clare The Wood is Sweet

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Cutting Edge

Those of you missed the Society of Wood Engravers exhibition at Northern Print in Newcastle have one more chance to see the show at Art Jericho in Oxford from 27th May to 27th June.

Click here to see details on the Art Jericho website.

Click here for the Society of Wood Engravers website.

"This is the 71st annual exhibition, and the 25th since the re-founding of the SWE.

A wide range of original prints in limited editions is on show, in which ancient techniques are deployed by modern artists, to create beautiful images - some dramatic, some witty, all stylish. Some of the foremost practitioners are currently exhibiting"

The show is previewed by the Oxford Times here.

Art Jericho have a number of prints by Thomas Bewick listed for sale.
"the 5 engravings at Art Jericho were printed (with considerable difficulties!) from his blocks by the Charlotte Press in 1970."
Click here for the gallery details.

Illustrated is Red Kite by Ian Stephens.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Bewick Renatured

Artist Marina Zurkow recently visited the archive of The Natural History Society of Northumbria. You can read her account of the visit on her website "Renatured." Included is this photograph of Archivist June Holmes with The Natural History Society of Northumbria's Bewick collection.

"RENATURED is a storage tank for thinking about the relationships between earthlings and their ecologies: between human and non-human animals, and those in between. Digging into the ways we live with nature and without it, and sampling from the internet ecosystem."

Click here to go to "Renatured."

Friday, 5 June 2009

New City Library

Two dates for the diary:

The New City Library opens its doors with a grand opening on Sunday 7 June at 11am.
You can read about the planned events and the new building here.

The new facilities include Bewick Hall:
"On the Princess Square level we have a superb new café run by Stewart and Co. from Jesmond (with additional outdoor seating on the redeveloped Princess Square), express email facilities, meeting rooms and the Bewick Hall – a performance space that can seat up to 185 people. There will also be superb display and exhibition facilities."

Hidden treasures from the library will go on display on Sunday, 21 June. Included will be items from the Bewick Collection amassed by John William Pease.

"Visitors to Newcastle’s new City Library will soon get the opportunity to see some of the city’s hidden treasures when they will be displayed for the first time to the public.
The treasures are part of the Newcastle Collection and include samples of work and artefacts from historical names like Thomas Bewick, Richard Collinson and the Crawhall family.
Pieces including Thomas Bewick’s work table, tools and blocks will be on view in a special climate controlled viewing room on the library’s Level 6

Click here for more information: Hidden Treasures to be Displayed at Library.
You can find information on the Pease Bequest and other collections at

There's a short video showing the printing of a Bewick block included on their updated site.
Click here to watch the video: A Wood Block in Use

You can also play Bewick Spot the Difference.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Upcoming at the Laing Art Gallery.

The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle will host the much-praised "Tale-pieces" exhibition. They have sent us this information:

"Thomas Bewick: Tale-Pieces
4 July – 18 October 2009

An exhibition of engravings by the North-East born artist Thomas Bewick.
The exhibition focuses on Bewick's 'tail-pieces' - small illustrations for a number of 18th century publications. These are complemented by some of Bewick's woodblocks and more prints from the Laing’s collection.

Born in Cherryburn, near Mickley, Northumberland in 1753, Bewick worked in Newcastle until his death in 1828. Clearly influenced by his childhood on a small farm on the banks of the river Tyne, Bewick’s love of the countryside is reflected in his detailed woodcuts of animals, birds and rural scenes.

Free entry. "

Friday, 22 May 2009

Last chance to see

The Spectator magazine alerts its readers that the Ikon exhibition ends soon.
The review can be found by clicking here.
Written by Andrew Lambrith the notice gives this verdict on the Birmingham show: "Thomas Bewick (1753–1828) was a great naturalist but he was also exceptionally observant of his fellow Northumbrians, and couldn’t resist showing their lower natures. This is what Ruskin, otherwise a fervent admirer of Bewick, castigated as the ‘love of ugliness that is in the English soul’. But in giving expression to it, Bewick made the ornamental space-filler of the vignette into a Tyneside soap opera. Remarkable."

Tale-pieces is at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham until 25th May.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Walk 2009

On 16th May the 2009 Bewick Society Walk began at Kirkheaton (pictured here) and ended with tea and cake at Kirkharle Courtyard.
More photos on the Bewick Society Flickr page. Click here.

"My grandmother's maiden name was Agnes Arthur, the daughter of a laird of that name at Kirkheaton, at which place my father was born in the year 1715, while his mother was there (I believe) on a visit to her friends."
from Bewick's Memoir, Chapter One

Saturday, 2 May 2009

More Reviews of Ikon show

Here are some more reviews of Tale-pieces at the Ikon Gallery.

"Tale-pieces is a revelation"
a welcome revival for an artist who deserves to be better known. "
How engraver Thomas Bewick made his mark on history."
By Terry Grimley - April 21st 2009.
"It is certainly the first exhibition I can recall at Ikon where magnifying glasses are issued to visitors, so extreme is the miniature scale of this work."
Click here to go to the Birmingham Post website.

"Review: Thomas Bewick Tale-Pieces at Ikon Gallery."
By Harry Blackett - April 19th 2009
"Each of the seventy, uniform, A4 framed sheets, hung in horizontal sequence throughout the gallery, features two images. Typically, one larger image floats in the top half of the page, the edges of the engraving dissipating cloudlike into the white. Below, there is a smaller image: perhaps a detail from the scene depicted above, an ornamental leaf or feather, or something more disjointed."
Click here to go to the Created in Birmingham site.

"Thomas Bewick"
review on "D'blog" 16th April 2009
"The video accompanies their current exhibition of “Thomas Bewick: Tale-pieces”, showing a selection of the humorous ‘absurd situations’ vignettes Bewick inserted into the end-papers of his books."
Click here to visit "D'blog"

"Ikon Exhibitions until 25 May"
review on "...and gazuky" 13th April 2009
"Given that the scenes are tiny (indeed, the gallery provides magnifying glasses which enhance the viewing experience) I was surprised by how moved I was by the natural beauty of the countryside depicted. I was left feeling nostalgic for a time when life was simpler, and the countryside remained unspoilt. That said, the images include a scene of drunkenness and even suicide; a reminder, perhaps, that humanity hasn’t changed that much at all."
Click here to visit "and gazuky"
Thomas Bewick at the Ikon Gallery
review by Christine Farmer
"What amazed and amused me most was the almost surreal nature of some of the imagery: a couple on a galloping horse encountering a gargantuan leaf was perhaps the most arresting, along with a monkey staring into a shaving mirror. But the one engraving I’d been really looking forward to was the one in which Bewick had carved a reproduction of his own
thumb-print as the main part of the design, and it did not disappoint. Prepared to go hunting for the hidden fingerprint with my trusty magnifying glass I was delighted as it appeared, large as you like, taking up almost the entirety of one of the smaller pieces."
Click here to visit the Christine Farmer Blog.

The exhibition is also mentioned on these blogs:
The Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs. Woffington.
Making a Mark

Monday, 27 April 2009

"All the world in two by three inches"

Read Laura Cumming on the Ikon show: click here to go to the Observer page.

"Corners of England, customs of the English, shot through with time, tide, gravity and wit, Bewick was making them even on the day of his death. If it is hard to say precisely how they act on the mind, highly original as they are, the analogy is surely with poems, ballads, fables, the rhymes of our childhood that enter the mind forever."

"Thomas Bewick's cheeky woodcuts"

Read Adrian Searle on the Ikon show: click here to go to the Guardian page.

"The Tale-pieces are like ballads or snatches of folk song; but at their best they offer much more. In one, an entire scene is obliterated by Bewick's inky thumbprint, carefully drawn and engraved between a cottage and an approaching rider. A visual equivalent to the sorts of authorial gags Laurence Sterne played in Tristram Shandy, it is a marvellous, timeless, magical joke ."

Thursday, 23 April 2009

"Visions of a lost England"

Tom Lubbock on Bewick.

"Thomas Bewick's rural childhood inspired his intricate woodcuts – and they conjure up an idyllic world of fables, pastimes and children's games, says Tom Lubbock"

For the full article click on the link below
The Independent, Monday 20 April.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Iain Bain Video.

A new video is available on the Ikon Gallery website.

The gallery tells us :

"Printing Historian and Bewick expert, Iain Bain gives us a fascinating insight into the life and work of Thomas Bewick. Iain also demonstrates the delicate and skilled processes Bewick employed in his work using original sketches and woodblocks."

The Tale-pieces exhibition continues at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham until 25th May.

Those planning a visit to Birmingham should look at the events planned to coincide with the show: Ikon Gallery Programme.

"Ikon’s exhibition includes approximately 150 tale-pieces, selected in consultation with Iain Bain, a leading expert on Thomas Bewick. A special weekend of events, including printing demonstrations and a lecture with Jenny Uglow takes place in May. A fully illustrated catalogue will be available for £24.95, special exhibition price £19.95 (only available in person at Ikon). In addition Ikon has produced a limited edition, printed on a hand press by Iain Bain from three original Bewick woodblocks. This is an edition of 75, priced £85 and shows three vignettes. Thomas Bewick Tale-pieces is supported by Patzi Haslimann (Ikon chairman 2002–6)."

You can find the video in the gallery's special Thomas Bewick's Media Gallery.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Whitley Great Ox Festival 28 March 2009.

The Natural History Society of Northumbria and the Bewick Society were delighted to support and officially open the first Whitley Great Ox Festival hosted by the Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade on Saturday 28 March. The Festival was created not only to honour the 18th century Quadruped immortalised by Bewick in his copperplate engraving of The Whitley Large Ox but to involve as many local schools as possible.

The Ox, owned by farmer Mr Edward Hall, became a beast of folklore in the 1780s due to its immense size, growing to a height of over 5ft 9ins and weighing a massive 216 stones. It was said to have grazed on ‘the Links’ at Whitley Bay before it was taken on its last journey in 1789, a slow seven day walk to Newcastle Cattle Market. Festival organisers had searched the North East for an image of the original Ox engraving to illustrate their celebrations; luckily the Natural History Society, who has a copy in their extensive Bewick Archive, saw their plea in a local newspaper and immediately offered to help.

For the festivities, local school children had been invited to submit a piece of art work about the seven day journey of the Ox. This closely contested competition was won by 12 year old Habib Ahmed for his imaginative version of the Ox. June Holmes on behalf of the Bewick Society presented him with the Art Competition shield for his school, Monkseaton Middle School.

There was also a poetry competition which had been judged by Michael Rosen, the Children’s Poet Laureate. The winning entry submitted by 12 year old Rosa Garland from Valley Gardens Middle School beat over 200 other entries. At the awards ceremony, attended by over 150 children and parents, Rosa was presented with a poetry competition shield for her school again by June Holmes on behalf of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, where she is the Archivist

June and Jane Brown, the marketing manager of the Natural History Society, attended the festival throughout the day and enjoyed seeing the children’s art works, reading the poems and watching a children’s performance of the Ox’s journey. There was also ‘Fat Ox’ ice creams in the local café to enjoy and Keith Armstrong gave a reading of his latest Bewick poem. With over 600 children taking part in the Festival this proved to be a fantastic day and a rare opportunity to promote the Bewick Society and Thomas Bewick in Whitley Bay.

Well done Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade!

Here is the prize winning poem:

The Great Ox Poem

When the doors open,
Now to be seen,
The most unlikely star
There has ever been.

He lumbers along slowly
“On!” the master cries,
And slaps him hard
Upon his thighs.

Through the streets,
Nobody spies,
The sadness buried deep
In the Ox’s drooping eyes.

Fingers are poking him,
Voices are loud,
People catching glimpses
Through the pushing crowd.

His size is great,
That is why,
Everyone’s pointing
As he goes by.

What a long journey
The Ox must tread,
And all the time
He’s filled with dread.

Everything is
Far too bright,
Too fast and worrying,
He longs for the safety of the night.

Past the excitement,
Through the fun,
The Ox’s story
Is a terrible one;

For nobody cares
For the Ox’s life
As he sees his journey’s end,
A man with a waiting knife.

Rosa Garland – aged 12- Valley Gardens Middle School

Click on the Ox to go to the Flickr page with more photos from the day.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


The Whitley Great Ox Festival – Saturday 28 March 2009.
In memory of the 18th century Quadruped immortalised by Bewick in his copperplate engraving of The Whitley Large Ox.

The original Ox engraving was produced for the owner Mr Edward Hall and published on the 10 April 1789. The Ox became a beast of folklore in the 1780s due to its immense size, growing to a height of over 5ft 9ins and weighing a massive 216 stones. It was said to have grazed near the site of the aptly named Fat Ox pub in Whitley Bay before it was walked all the way to Newcastle to be slaughtered.

Keith Armstrong has penned these lines:

It was 1789 the Year of the Great Ox,
the year the beast got loose in Paris,
when Whitley Bay was sleeping.
The year of the storming,
when John Martin was born in Haydon Bridge,
his heart breaking with painting visions;
the year of the slaying
of old regimes
when royalty hung in the slaughterhouse.
The Ox walked seven days,
like a doomed aristocrat
to have its tallow used to light the night,
to show the way
for the Rights of Man,
to sacrifice its beastly life
to keep a candle burning
and give us hope
and faith and charity,
a glint from God
and a gleam in Thomas Bewick’s eye
as he engraved the swollen moment
for all to see.



what could you see?
The mob grabbing your life,
and Tom Horsley’s butcher’s axe
hanging over your great spirit
as you valiently strode
the mucky road,
along the throbbing seashore,
through the pestilence of Tyneside,
its filth and flames,
its poisoned air and quack’s potions,
its Geordie beauty and debauch.

Edward Hall thought he owned you.
After a few beers, he thought the very universe was his.
But you, my sturdy fellow, were your own Ox
and could see the folly
of the swinish multitude
as it came to get you
to rip out your guts
and feed the Duke and Duchess,
and all their grasping subjects,
to satiate their appalling vanity.

You had more dignity than them.
You gave up your animal life
for others.
While Eddie Hall he died in pomp,
you, my massive beauty, were unselfish,
a Great Beast
full of love,
the very meat
of life itself
in all its morning glory,
in all its starry wonder;
the wide and beautiful sky
through the miraculous eyes of an Ox.



It had the Constitution of an Ox:

Girth at the belly 10 feet 9 inches
Girth at the loins 10 feet 4 inches
Girth at the shoulders 10 feet 3 inches
Girth behind the shoulders 9 feet 9 inches
Breadth at the hips 3 feet
Breadth at the shoulders 2 feet 6 inches
Height at the fore-crop 5 feet 9 iches
Height at the loins 5 feet 11 inches
Height from the ground to the breast 1 feet 6 inches
Weight 216 stones 8lbs.

That was the Constitution of the Ox.
The track record, shape, volume, build, realm, history, cut and nub of it, the scale of things, the order of the Ox, the full measure of the beast drawn by Thomas Bewick for all of us in awe of it, in a world that never ceases, to astonish.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Thomas Bewick and Music: “an emanation from heaven”

Mr. Kinloch's Ball
Originally uploaded by Bewick Society
Last night at the Brunswick Methodist Church Dr Peter Quinn gave a lecture entitled "Thomas Bewick and music: “an emanation from heaven”" The lecture formed part of the Tercentenary celebrations of the Newcastle composer Charles Avison.

In 1770, the year of Charles Avison’s death Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) was an apprentice engraver at the workshop of Ralph Beilby. Situated at Amen Corner to the south of St. Nicholas Church, the workshop placed the young Bewick at the centre of the commercial and cultural heart of Newcastle. He heard a wide-range of music at this time and developed a number of life-long musical enthusiasms. The lecture highlighted those early musical connections and described the importance of music in Bewick’s view of nature and art.

The illustration is a Copperplate etching by Robert Bewick of a drawing by Thomas Bewick for Alexander Kinloch, a local dancing master, c.1812. The musician on the right could be Robert Bewick.

Click on the image to go to the Flikr page where you will find two further illustrations used in the lecture: pages from John Peacock's "A Favourite Collection of Tunes with Variations Adapted for the Northumberland Small Pipes, Violin, or Flute".

Friday, 20 March 2009


Stride Circus Lane
and chip your signature
on the pavement of scrapes and kisses.
Pass the Forth
and skirt
its pleasure gardens;
throw your darts in the archery field.
Skim the bowling green
and walk on water,
doff your hat to Mrs Waldie;
cut along
old scars of lanes
to the bloody gush of Westgate Street;
whistle with birds
in a vicar’s garden,
let warm thoughts fly in Tyneside sun
to bless this Geordie day.
And greet
the morning hours,
Aunt Blackett and Gilbert Gray,
sing to free the world,
the Black Boy;
harmonise your mind
in a churchyard of melancholy.
Dance over the Lort Burn,
the sun in your eyes,
flooding your workshop
with a light fantastic.
Your shoulders so proud
rub with the building girls
and lady barbers
along Sandhill;
the boats of your dreams
bridge the aching Tyne,
ships groaning
in the tender daylight,
longing for the healing moon;
a keelman’s fantasies
of quayside flesh
and the seething sea.
You trip along
searching for electricity and magnetism
in the inns,
winging it
with the bird catchers and canary breeders,
the dirty colliers and the harping whalers.
Walk on Tom,
a portrait
of a hanging man;
let your strong heart
swell with the complex passion
of common folk.


Sunday, 1 February 2009

Bewick Enthusiasms

Saturday 30th Jan 2009.
Poems, Pipes, Clocks, Swedes and Brontes.

On a cold Saturday afternoon twenty or so Bewick enthusiasts gathered in Jesmond in Room No.1 of the Meeting House of The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers.

In order of appearance we heard a reading of Bewick and Spence-inspired poetry from North East poet Keith Armstrong; a medley of pipe tunes from Robert Elliot Bewick’s collection performed by Ann Sessoms; and an account by Margaret Chard of her ongoing research into the Bewick workshop cash-books and the 200 clock-makers who were Bewick customers.

After the tea-break, Peter Quinn unearthed some twentieth century Scandinavian Bewick enthusiasts and Peter Osbourne sketched out the Bronte family’s interest in Bewick. In particular he demonstrated the widespread use of Bewick imagery and allusion in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Click on the image to go to the Flickr page where you can see more Scandinavian Bewick material.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Ikon Gallery Birmingham 8 April – 25 May 2009

Thomas Bewick Tale-pieces

An exhibition devoted entirely to the vignettes of Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) at Ikon Gallery – Birmingham

The exhibition will include approximately 100 tail-pieces, selected in consultation with Iain Bain. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition, with texts by Nigel Tattersfield and artist/critic Tom Lubbock.

After its run in Birmingham the exhibition will transfer to the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle from 4th July - 18th October and run alongside the international Print Biennale.

Ikon Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham is open Tuesday – Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays, 11am-6pm. Admission is free.
For further details see


A new coffee shop and restaurant is now open in the Gateshead Civic Centre on the Ground Floor.
The name "Bewicks" was chosen to celebrate the life of Thomas Bewick, one-time Gateshead resident.
There's new hot and cold menus plus daily specials, a deli counter and a coffee shop offering sandwiches, patisseries and speciality coffees.
The opening Hours are Breakfast 7.30am – 9.30am; Coffee Shop 9.30am – 4.00pm; Lunch 11.30am – 2.00pm.

More details at their website

You can also read there a short history of Bewick in Gateshead.

"In 1812,Thomas Bewick and his family moved to a newly built
house with a garden in Back Lane, Gateshead. The house was
advertised as having a parlour, drawing room, four lodging
rooms, servant’s room, large garret, cellar with a pump of
excellent spring water, large yard with detached buildings, and
a garden well stocked with fruit trees. Bewick lived there for the
rest of his life. Towards the end of the 1820s it was renamed 8
West Street and in the 1850s renumbered 19 West Street. When
J J Audubon the famous American wildlife artist visited him in
April 1827,Bewick had a workshop in the house, having left the
firm’s shop in Newcastle to his son Robert.
Bewick’s house had uninterrupted views to the west,over open
ground to the river in the distance. In the early 1830s the
Mechanics’ Institute was built across the road and Gateshead
Dispensary next door. Before long, housing surrounded West
Street. It now forms part of Gateshead’s Town Centre. A stone
plaque marks the site of the house and a brass plaque
commemorates the 100th anniversary of his death in 1928."