Norman Thelwell was a cartoonist and illustrator who was born in Cheshire in 1923. When he left school at sixteen he initially worked for two years as a junior clerk in a seed merchant’s office. Following this he was conscripted in 1942 and served for three years, being posted in various parts of Britain. In 1944, he attended evening classes at Nottingham School of Art where he met fellow artist, Rhona Evelyn Ladbury, whom he married, and in the same year he was posted to India. Whilst based in India he had his first cartoons and drawings published in various magazines such as The Artist, London Opinion and News Review. When he was demobilised he returned to England and enrolled in the Liverpool College of Art from 1947 until 1950. He continued to contribute drawings and cartoons to various publications whilst a student there and, following graduation, he started teaching design and illustration at Wolverhampton College of Art.
Thelwell sold his first cartoons to Punch in 1952 which led to him contributing over 1,600 cartoons to the magazine, including sixty covers, over a twenty-five year period, from 1952 to 1977. He also produced his first book illustrations during his time teaching. After being offered a job producing cartoons for the News Chronicle in 1956, he left teaching to become a full-time freelance artist and published his first book the following year, a collection of his cartoons entitled Angels on Horseback. His books were extremely successful and during his lifetime he produced over thirty collections of his cartoons as well as an autobiography, memoirs and contributing illustrations to many books. He also produced over 387 cartoons for the News Chronicle throughout his life, as well as contributing to the Sunday Dispatch, The Tatler, Daily Express and John Bull, amongst others. His design commissions included book jackets, greeting cards, postage stamps, calendars and advertising.
Thelwell was particularly well-known for his cartoons featuring ponies and little girls, the first of which was published in 1953. Other cartoon subjects for which he was known include fishing, sailing, farming, gardening, motoring and country pursuits. In 1966 he was a founder member of the British Cartoonists’ Association. He was also a landscape artist who worked in oils and watercolours and examples of his work are now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Cartoon Museum and the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent.