We were saddened to hear of the death of Robert Gillmor last week, an artist, author and ornithologist that we will always feel immensely grateful for having worked with. It all started, for us, back in 2010 when Elaine Blake, Curator at Reading Museum, asked if we’d be interested in publishing a book to accompany an exhibition she was putting on of artwork commissioned from Robert by the Royal Mail for a series of stamps (Birds, Blocks and Stamps: Post & Go Birds of Britain). We jumped at the opportunity, though with some trepidation as we’d never published an art book before and it was a little daring to start with one by such a well known artist.
From the first meeting, which took place at Robert and Sue’s home in Cley, Norfolk, we knew the project was going to be a delight to work on as well as a success. Working with Robert turned out to be an invitation into his home – meeting Sue, enjoying home-made soup in their conservatory before clearing the crumbs away to pore over the most astounding linocut prints, marveling at the workmanship and receiving a demonstration of his trusted 1864 Albion Press in his studio. A subsequent meeting to discuss a second book (Cover Birds, the story of Robert’s formative bird-watching and print-making years, illustrated with the covers he designed for the Berkshire Ornithological Club’s annual bird report from 1949 – when he was just 13 years old – onwards) took place at a cousin’s house as a half-way point and also included a delicious home-made lunch, by which time we felt like family friends. This privilege extended over more than a decade as we got to know Emily their daughter, also an accomplished artist, and were included on Christmas card lists (always one of Robert’s wonderful birds) and newsletter mailings.
I struggle to find a word to describe this generosity of spirit. ‘Hospitality’ is part of it, but it’s something more, encompassing a sense of easy naturalness in a relationship based on accepting people for who they are. It strikes me that this same ability to see and accept the essence of a person is what makes Robert’s work so appealing. In his designs, he endowed all his avian subjects with what ornithologists call ‘the jizz’ – the very character and personality of the bird. Something in Robert recognised and drew out the joy in an animal, and he did the same with people. It’s our turn now, to commemorate the joy in him.
March 2022: A retrospective to celebrate the 70th birthday of Martin Andrews runs in Henley from Thursday 10th until Tuesday 15th March.
The exhibition is at the Old Fire Station Gallery, 52 Market Place, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AG, and is open daily from 11am to 4.30pm. It features paintings, prints, ceramics and sculpture representing over half a century of making. Information about the gallery is here.
Do visit if you can!
As many of you will know, Martin has been involved with Two Rivers Press for many years, contributing many illustrations and writing a few books too!
Also in 2014 he co-authored, with Robert Gillmor, a beautifully illustrated book about the life and work of Gillmor’s grandfather the prominent wildlife artist Allen W. Seaby.
More recently, with John Froy he co-authored The Art of Peter Hay, celebrating the art and life of the founder of Two Rivers Press.
Over the years, Martin las provided many artworks and illustrations for Two Rivers Press, including the portrait of René Noyau on the cover of Earth on fire, and a wonderful painting which feature on the cover of our forthcoming short history of Reading Gaol.
His painting of the Old Dairy on Upper Redlands Road featured in The Art & History of Whiteknights, and he recorded an accompanying video, which includes a personal tour of his studio in Caversham.
On Saturday 30th November, from 4pm until 10pm, we will having a party to celebrate 25 Years of Two Rivers Press publishing and to launch our new book, ‘The Art of Peter Hay‘.
We have booked the Waterside Centre’s upstairs room which overlooks the river as it’s the closest place to ‘where two rivers meet’ that we could find. There’s a great view from the balcony, although given that it will be nearly mid winter, it will be rather dark… But inside it will be warm, convivial and cheerful! We hope you can join us.
The Wokingham Waterside Centre is at the end of the A329M just on the edge of town at Thames Valley Park, Reading, RG6 1PQ. There is parking available at the centre or on the adjacent Thames Valley Park Drive (free at weekends).
Come and listen to our recently published poetry! Conor Carville and James Peake will read from ‘English Martyrs’ and ‘Reaction Time of Glass’ respectively (both published this autumn) and Peter Robinson will also be reading from ‘Bonjour Mr Inshaw’ (officially published in Jan 2020 but advance copies will be available). Next Thurday – 21st November, 6.30pm in London.
This Saturday 9th November, at 4pm, Claire Dyer, Lesley Saunders and Susan Utting will be performing in the Peter Pears Gallery: a conversation on gender, its complexity, perplexity, its poetry. You can book here.