Thelwell’s famous ponies to star in major exhibition and movie


THEY’RE chubby, playful and naughty – and they’ve graced greetings cards, posters and publications galore. Now, Thelwell’s ponies are the focus of both a movie and a major exhibition.

As the live-action Merrylegs the Movie ups its pace from a trot to a canter, with real ponies and actors cast, a special showcase of Norman Thelwell’s artwork is coming up soon in the UK.

For more than three decades before he passed away, he made Hampshire – famous for its New Forest ponies – his home, and the county is honouring his legacy next year with a milestone exhibition.

The artist, who started his career at Punch magazine, where he drew more than 1,600 cartoons, also wrote 32 books which sold over two million copies in the UK and were translated worldwide.

He introduced his very first pony in 1953 and went on to become one of Britain’s best-loved cartoonists, still working up until his death in 2004. Next year, he would have been 100 years old.

Mottisfont – an 18th century house and medieval priory now owned by the National Trust – will be marking the anniversary with a ‘100 years of Norman Thelwell’ showcase which runs from January 21 to May 7, 2023.

More than 50 artworks, many never shown before, will take visitors on a journey through the artist’s life, from childhood sketches and family memories to an exploration of his passion for conservation.

Born in Birkenhead, Thelwell moved with his family to a house and studio at Timsbury – close to Mottisfont – where he is buried in the village’s St Andrew’s Churchyard.

From his home, he captured the landscape and villages of the Hampshire countryside on canvas, sketching and painting the natural world around him, and campaigning for conservation.

In addition to Thelwell’s much-loved ponies and other humorous illustrations, the centenary exhibition will also feature his paintings of local landscapes, including the village of Mottisfont itself.

Merrylegs The Movie is in development at UK production company Blenheim Films, with Michelle Smith (The Runaways, Aladdin, Once Upon a Time in London) playing Penny, Merrylegs’ young rider.

For more information on the Mottisfont exhibition, click here and for tourist information about Hampshire see www.visit-hampshire.co.uk. Mottisfont image by Simon Newman.

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