Last October the Friends were thoroughly entertained by this new talk developed by Robin Thorndyke. Robin has been a volunteer at Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre (MRLC) for many years where he has gained a sound working knowledge of the Brian Hatton collection of drawings and paintings. However, Brian’s boyhood letters, which are safely stored at HARC, remain very little known. Archives staff, aided by Alan Walker, a volunteer, worked with Robin to select and scan over 100 images of the fragile letters as a first step to making them more accessible without compromising their safety. Drawing on the knowledge, skills and resources from both Herefordshire’s museum and archive services has enabled Robin to compile this poignant talk.

Brian Hatton was a child prodigy whose studies of working horses led to national recognition [Gold medals], and introductions to both Princess Louise at Kensington Palace and to G. F. Watts, then one of the most revered mainstream artists of the late Victorian era. Whilst still very young Brian was sent away from his Hereford home for the good of his health. The sea air of the Gower Peninsular was recommended to provide respite from his asthma and so Brian attended Swansea Grammar School in the day and roamed, on foot and by pony, the beaches and the countryside at every opportunity. He only returned home to Hereford during school holidays. His Mother wrote to him almost every day, and in reply, Brian sent letters enhanced with sketches and pen and ink drawings, which she cherished and kept.

Drawing of a horse being ridden through the countryside by Brian Hatton - Herefordshire artist

Robin spent over a year completing a thorough study of this unique collection and has developed a talk which gives new insights into the young artist’s personality and skill. He presents and discusses selected examples of spontaneous and unrehearsed drawings and sketches, which were intended to enliven, or perhaps simply to fill, the pages of Brian’s twice weekly replies to Broomy Hill. Eschewing discussion of any finished compositions or formal portraits, Robin shows drawings in black and white of impromptu and improvised images of a child’s scrapes and mishaps in daily life, captured in tiny detail on writing paper! The letters depict Brian’s daily life alongside adventures on horseback on the open beaches and the rural countryside of Gower. The audience saw many examples of the young man’s prodigious visual memory concerning horses, and were carried along with the vitality, wit, honesty, candour and lack of political correctness they reveal. The drawings provide an amusing and insightful record of an extraordinary Edwardian boyhood expertly brought to life by the speaker.

Robin is a popular speaker offering several talks on Brian Hatton’s life and work. He leads an annual walk around the Broomy Hill and Breinton area which inspired so much of Brian’s work. This year’s walk is on Sunday 28 April 2019- cost £5. Contact Robin on 01432 350818 or robinthorndyke@gmail.com for bookings for the walk or talks.

For more information about Brian Hatton, visit the website Brian Hatton: The Life and Death of a Young Artist. http://brianhatton.herefordshire.gov.uk

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