Thomas Bewick - Encyclopedia

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THOMAS BEWICK (1753-1828), English wood-engraver, was born at Cherryburn, near Newcastle-on-Tyne, in August 1753. His father rented a small colliery at Mickleybank, and sent his son to school at Mickley. He proved a poor scholar, but showed, at a very early age, a remarkable talent for drawing. He had no tuition in the art, and no models save natural objects. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to Mr Beilby, an engraver in Newcastle. In his office Bewick engraved on wood for Dr Hutton a series of diagrams illustrating a treatise on mensuration. He seems thereafter to have devoted himself entirely to engraving on wood, and in 177 5 he received a premium from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures for a woodcut of the "Huntsman and the Old Hound." In 1784 appeared his Select Fables, the engravings in which, though far surpassed by his later productions, were incomparably superior to anything that had yet been done in that line. The Quadrupeds appeared in 1790, and his great achievement, that with which his name is inseparably associated, the British Birds, was published from 1797-1804. Bewick, from his intimate knowledge of the habits of animals acquired during his constant. excursions into the country, was thoroughly qualified to do justice to his great task. Of his other productions the engravings for Goldsmith's Traveller and Deserted Village, for Parnell's Hermit, for Somerville's Chase, and for the collection of Fables of Aesop and Others, may be specially mentioned. Bewick was for many years in partnership with his former master, and in later life had numerous pupils, several of whom gained distinction as engravers. He died on the 8th of November 1328.

His autobiography, Memoirs of Thomas Bewick, by Himself, appeared in 1862.

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