Tuesday, 4 February 2014

PBOTD: 4th February - Thelwell, Angels on Horseback

It's a rare pony loving child who hasn't come across Thelwell, his fat, hairy, malevolent ponies, and his endlessly determined and fanatical riders. Norman Thelwell (1923-2004) studied art at the Liverpool College of Art, and he taught art until his burgeoning career providing illustrations for magazines like Punch meant he could draw full time. Today's book, Angels on Horseback (1952) was his first book, and was a collection of cartoons already published elsewhere. 

Methuen, first edition, 1952
Although he went on to produce over 30 books, the majority were not devoted to horses. Thelwell was not in fact horsey himself, but he was a merciless and accurate portrayer of those who were. I suspect that most people's experience with ponies is not the dream-like one portrayed by artists by Anne Bullen, but one in which the pony definitely came off best, most of the time.  He certainly struck a nerve with his first pony-related cartoon:

"One day I did a pony drawing, and it was like striking a sensitive nerve. The response was instantaneous... suddenly I had a fan mail. So the editor told me to do a two-page spread on ponies. I was appalled."

The inspiration for Penelope and her friends, and Kipper and their evil ilk came from two ponies who lived in a field next door to his house. The ponies did their best to ignore the girls, but capitulated and were led away, though Thelwell said "they were planning vengeance - you could tell by their eyes."


Methuen paperback, 1970s
I'm sure he was right.

Angels on Horseback was first printed by Methuen in 1952. It first appeared in paperback in 1963, and remained in print, in various paperback editions, for most of the century.
Mandarin paperback, 1990s
 And for all those who, like me, longed for one of these and never got one, an advert from a 1960s PONY Magazine, which shows the Thelwell model.



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For much more Thelwell, see his page on my website.

6 comments:

Christina Wilsdon said...

Oh my goodness. LOVED Thelwell...I got a 4 pack set of those 1970 Methuen books at the tack shop downtown with birthday money (still have them). This was after I tried to strong-arm girls into signing up for a horse book club, for which the prize was that set of books if you signed up 20 kids. Used up many a ream of paper drawing Thelwell ponies and still remember begging for (and not getting) that Thelwell model. I love how his ponies got fatter and fatter and more stubby legged over the years.

Jane Badger said...

Did you succeed in signing up girls for the horse book club? I need to know. I guess there'd be a market for a remake of that Thelwell model. I still long, even after all these years!

Christina Wilsdon said...

Didn't sign up a single girl. A few did go home and lobby their moms, to no avail. My mom was mortified when she found out I'd been doing this.

Jane Badger said...

Sounds very entrepreneurial to me, but I did wonder if you'd find that many kids who were horse-mad. Wishful thinking?

Goldielover said...

I used to ride an evil little Shetland that could put Kipper to shame. If he wasn't bucking you off, he was rolling you off or scraping you off. When the riding instructor got on him to show him who was boss he bucked her off too.

Jane Badger said...

I can imagine. We used to board two Shetlands, and we had to post a warning notice on the door to day don't open the door too wide, or they'll barge you out of the way. They blasted through electric fencing, or rolled under it.