Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Engraving Great Artist's Spirit on Our Own Century

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Engraving Great Artist's Spirit on Our Own Century

Article excerpt


GROWING up on his family's small farmstead in the Tyne Valley in Northumberland, Thomas Bewick ranged through the 18th Century countryside, soaking up the natural world.

His life at Cherryburn, near Mickley, would be reflected in the work which has led to him being described as "nature's engraver."

Later, he made his home at Gateshead, producing books such as his History of British Birds, the first field guide for ordinary people.

Artist Mark Fairnington was born in Gateshead and he, too, has immersed himself in Cherryburn and its surroundings. He has walked the Northumbrian countryside as part of a commission by Newcastle University to paint a series of small landscape studies which have gone on show at the National Trust's Cherryburn.

The exhibition, Walking, Looking and Telling Tales, continues until November 4. Mark is Reader in Painting at the University of the Arts in London, where he lives. His work has been featured in museums throughout Europe and the United States, including the Imperial War Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum, and the Horniman Museum.

He said: "I stayed in the cottage at Cherryburn and it was so different from where I live in London. It was incredibly quiet and very beautiful, and it gave me time to think."jm To prepare for the commission, Mark studied Bewick's drawings in the British Museum and the Great North Museum in Newcastle.

"Bewick drew all the time. His drawings are fantastic and they have an immediacy - he is making drawings of what he has just seen and experienced," said Mark.

"It was a quite radical view of nature for its time - the birds and animals and how they fitted into human life, and I followed Bewick's spirit."

Mark's father came from Newcastle and his mother from Sunderland, and they retired to Wooler in Northumberland.

Mark returned to Northumbrian locations he knew from visiting his parents.

"When I was painting the landscapes, I had blown up sections of Bewick's prints beside me all the time. You get drawn into Bewick's life," said Mark. …

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