Having recently signed a new agreement to produce Thelwell Whimsies, we arranged to meet the Thelwell family. We spent a pleasant afternoon with David and Penny Thelwell . They shared with us some of the history of Thelwell ponies and stories of their father Norman. We were lucky to be shown a range of original artwork from the Thelwell Estate collection that gave us some inspiration and ideas for future Whimsies. The first of the Thelwell Whimsies will be Pony Express in three colourway limited edition pieces. Brown, White, and Grey. Each Whimsie will be a limited edition of 250, issued with a certificate of authenticity and boxed in a Wade Whimsie gift box. They will be available in April this year. Visit again soon for details on how to place your order.
Norman Thelwell was an English cartoonist and author well known for his humorous illustrations of ponies and horses and as an author of some thirty-nine books. We have negotiated with the family’s agent to produce Wade Whimsies of his comical pony illustrations, bringing together two iconic British brands. It’s true to say that the Wade Club is new to this subject, but we mean to learn fast!
Norman Thelwell was born into a working class family in Tranmere, Birkenhead, Cheshire, England on May 3rd 1923, the son of a machinist. He sold his first drawings, fifteen sketches of chickens, at the age of fifteen, and a year later at sixteen, left Rock Ferry High School, Birkenhead, and secured a job as a junior clerk in Liverpool with Unilever.
He joined the army during the 2nd World War in 1941 at the age of 18 and served most of the war in the UK but in 1945 was posted to India with the East Yorkshire Regiment. Whilst there he had three cartoons published in the services magazine Victory, receiving, as he said, “a cheque for more rupees than he earned in a month from the army.” Following on from this success, he was soon appointed art editor of a new monthly magazine in India.
Demobbed in November 1946, he spent the next three years studying at the Liverpool College of Art, where he got his degree in Art and Illustrations, and in 1949 became a student teacher at Wolverhampton College of Art lecturing on design and illustration. He met his future wife Rhona in Nottingham whilst on a radio course, and they married in 1949. They had one son, David, who also became an artist, and a daughter, Penny.
In 1950, he took up a post teaching design and illustration at Wolverhampton Art College, but later gave this up to work freelance.
In 1952 he got his big break when Punch magazine published the first of what, over the next 25 years, would be over 1,500 of his cartoons including 60 of which were used as front covers.
In 1956 he was offered the leading cartoonist’s job on the News Chronicle, an English newspaper. By 1960 he had drawn 387 cartoons for the newspaper, and when it suddenly closed down that year, he was quickly signed up by the Sunday Dispatch, another newspaper, to produce a weekly cartoon.
His first collection of cartoons, Angels on Horseback, was published in book form in 1957 by Methuen, and sixty years later, the same book was re-released in 2017 by the same publishers.
In the 1970s, Norman Thelwell was chosen to illustrate the front covers of the now famous, veterinary surgeon, James Herriott's first six books which have been in print ever since.
For the last quarter of a century of his life he lived in the Test Valley in southern England at Timsbury near Romsey, Hampshire, where he took on the task of restoring a farm house, and landscaping the grounds which gave rise, in 1978, to his first factual book, A Plank Bridge by a Pool.
Norman Thelwell died on 7th February 2004 aged 80, and is buried in St Andrew's Churchyard, Timsbury, Hampshire. In his time he made a lot of people laugh, and a lot of people happy.
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