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Thomas Bewick

A picture of Thomas Bewick

About Thomas Bewick

Wood engraver & founder of the British School of Wood Engraving

He was born at Cherryburn House, Ovingham, Northumberland 12th August 1753. A farmer's son, he early evinced a strong love of nature and drawing, and at the age of 14, he was apprenticed to Ralph Bielby (1744-1817), a Newcastle engraver, who turned out work of the most miscellaneous description. For a few months in London (1776), he then became the partner of his former master, and taking his brother, John Bewick (1760-1795) as an apprentice, executed the woodcuts for Gay's Fables (1779), Select Fables (1784) and his History of Quadrupeds (1790), which fully established his reputation as an engraver. During the progress of the last work he executed in 1789 his 'Chillingham Bull' a large woodcut, which some have regarded as his masterpiece. The success of the Quadrupeds, led him to his even finer History of British Birds (2 vols 1797-1804) The figures of the various birds are rendered with the utmost spirit and accuracy, and as examples of the powerful and finely decorative arrangements of black and white, nothing could surpass his 'Eagle Owl' his 'Short-eared Owl' and his 'Goldfinch'. The tailpieces are vivid renderings of landscape and of rustic life, and are frequently touched with a homely and most vigorous humour. In technical method these illustrations show an immense advance upon all previous examples of wood-engraving. Of his later works need only be mentioned his Aesop's Fables (1818), in which he was assisted by William Temple, William Harvey, and his son, Robert Elliott Bewick (1788-1849) who became his partner in 1812, and also took part in the cuts for an unfinished History of British Fishes. Thomas Bewick died at Gateshead on the 8th November 1828 and was buried at Ovingham.

Information submitted by: Alan Longbottom

Other famous people alive at the time of Thomas Bewick

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Capability BrownBorn 1716, died 6th February 1783 aged 67
Sir Richard Francis BurtonBorn 19th March 1821, died 20th October 1890 aged 69
John ByngBorn 29th October 1704, died 14th March 1757 aged 52
Charles John CanningBorn 14th December 1812, died 17th June 1862 aged 49
George CanningBorn 11th April 1770, died 8th August 1827 aged 57
Henry CavendishBorn 10th October 1731, died 24th February 1810 aged 78
Captain James CookBorn 27th October 1728, died 14th February 1779 aged 50
Elizabeth GaskellBorn 29th September 1810, died 12th November 1865 aged 55
Robert HawkerBorn 3rd December 1803, died 15th August 1875 aged 71
Robert OwenBorn 14th May 1771, died 17th November 1858 aged 87
John PeelBorn 1776, died 1854 aged 78
Robert PeelBorn 5th February 1788, died 2nd July 1850 aged 62
Joseph PriestleyBorn 13th March 1733, died 8th February 1804 aged 70
Humphry ReptonBorn 21st April 1752, died 24th March 1818 aged 65
Peter Mark RogetBorn 18th January 1779, died 12th September 1869 aged 90
Queen VictoriaBorn 24th May 1819, died 22nd January 1901 aged 81

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