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Lecture – ‘Drawn to Nature: Gilbert White & The Artists’ with Pallant House Gallery Director

“a book that elegantly blends art history and biographical detail with a visual valentine to the English countryside.” Simeon House, The Mail on Sunday


The Director of Pallant House Gallery, Simon Martin will be at Gilbert White’s House and Gardens on Tuesday November 15, at 7pm, to give a talk on his book Drawn to Nature: Gilbert White & The Artists.

The book begins with a timeless introduction from Sir David Attenborough that ignites the reader’s fascination with Gilbert White’s life work The Natural History of Selborne. Mr. Martin lifts White’s characters and places off the page, by bringing together over 230 years’ worth of artistic interpretations of the 1789 literary classic.

Drawn to Nature reveals the technical intricacies of the artistic interpretations, and the wildlife observations and environmental messages behind them. From the first drawings for The Natural History of Selborne by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm in 1789 to the contemporary illustrations by Angie Lewin and Emily Sutton, Simon Martin takes the reader on a journey through art history.

The Natural History of Selborne has been wrapped up in significant artistic movements. Martin unveils how wildlife photography by the Kearton brothers for the 1902 edition, constitutes some of the earliest published photographic depictions of birds and animals. Then in the 1920s the rural revival in traditional wood engraving, led to prominent members of the Society of Wood Engravers, Eric Fitch Daglish and Gertrude Hermes, being commissioned to develop wood engravings that exhibited the complex detail of the animal characters, with finely cut lines using tint tools.

Pallant House Gallery, in Chichester, was one of the first organisations to celebrate the tercentenary of Gilbert White’s birth in 2020. As the director of the gallery, Mr. Martin curated an exhibition exploring how White's Natural History of Selborne has inspired generations of artists. It was during the covid pandemic that shut down the gallery that Mr. Martin decided to use the exhibition as the basis for his book Drawn to Nature.

The contemporary work of artists that Mr. Martin commissioned for the exhibition feature in the book, including the striking collage of White’s thrush, by Mark Hearld which takes pride of place on the book cover. A collection of these contemporary pieces are on loan to Gilbert White’s House & Gardens, and will be on display in their exhibition until December 11.

The lecture by Mr. Martin on November 15, provides the perfect opportunity for the public to learn more about both the process of curating the exhibition and the weaving of those artistic interpretations into a book dedicated to both the development of art and the enduring appeal of White’s writing. Tickets are £10 per person and can be purchased online or via phone. Book signings will take place after the talk.