Robert Gillmor retrospective at Reading museumBy Sally Bryant
October 10, 2011
The work of one of Reading’s famous sons is coming home to roost in the form of a major exhibition.
Watercolours, lino cuts and other illustrations by wildlife artist Robert Gillmor, renowned for his studies of birds, will be at the museum from the end of this month.
This will be the first large-scale retrospective of his work in 30 years, and one highlight will be the original lino cuts for his recent Royal Mail postage stamp commissions.
Art lovers will also be able to see preparatory material for more than 100 books that Mr Gillmor has illustrated.
Activities for adults and children, including An Evening with Robert Gillmor and Friends and a block printing study day, will run alongside the six-month exhibition.
The evening starts at 6.30pm on Thursday, October 27, and the artist will be signing books during the event.
Mr Gillmor, who has been hailed as Britain’s most influential wildlife artist, was born in Reading and lived here for more than 60 years.
In his early 20s, he organised one of the first-ever exhibitions by bird painters at Reading Museum and Art Gallery.
From that, in 1964, stemmed the prestigious Society of Wildlife Artists, of which he has been president and is still an official.
He works with many bird welfare organisations and his part in conservation was saluted with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds medal in 2001.
His superb drawings from life – the result of thousands of hours of observation – have earned him the highest respect from ornithologists the world over.
Mr Gillmor moved from Reading to Cley-next-the-Sea in North Norfolk, a twitchers’ paradise, in 1998 but his links to Reading stay strong.
He went to Leighton Park School, where he later also taught, and was a fine art student at Reading University. He is still an active member of Berkshire Ornithological Club, previously Reading Ornithological Club, and has been providing the cover illustrations for annual reports since 1950.
He is also a long-standing member of the Reading Guild of Artists.
Mr Gillmor’s career really flew to the heights during his time in his home town.
He was just 16 when his illustrations were first published and a university student here when he illustrated his first whole book, David Snow’s A Study of Blackbirds.
He was 28 when he left teaching to be a freelance wildlife artist. His latest change of direction is a return after 25 years to his favourite medium, lino block printing, using a 150-year-old Albion press.
He has just finished the cuts for four sets of stamps, and Two Rivers Press in Reading is publishing Birds, Blocks and Stamps to coincide with the launch of the exhibition.
The Gillmor retrospective opens in the John Madejski Art Gallery in the Museum of Reading, Blagrave Street, on Sunday, October 23, and runs until Sunday, April 29.
Marian Livingston, Reading’s lead councillor for culture and sport, said: “It is an enormous honour to welcome an artist of such international standing back to his home town and l would encourage everyone to visit the museum and enjoy his work.”