Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bewick at the British Museum

The head of Thomas Bewick stands guard at present by the door of the British Museum Prints and Drawings Room. 
The plaster cast of Bailey's bust introduces a display of Bewick's work selected by Nigel Tattersfield to celebrate the publication of his 3-volume "The Complete Illustrative Work".  Next to it is a print of the sample of Gay's fables, submitted by Beilby, to the nascent Royal Society of Arts, that won young Thomas a prize. 
The exhibition presents a brief history of Bewick's work on quadrupeds and birds by displaying his drawings next to the resulting prints.  There is an original Pidcock poster showing the superiority of Bewick's lion etc to other animals included.  The poster shows how he effectively dramatised his creatures, such as the roaring lion, for this purpose of publicity. 
Nigel Tattersfield has chosen to include a significant number of examples of ephemera to illustrate the breadth of workshop production.  These include the 1767 'George and Dragon', all sorts of tickets, banknotes, etc., but there are also fine pulls of the Chillingham Bull and Whitley Large Ox.

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