Thomas Bewick

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Bewick, Thomas (1755–1828). English animal artist and engraver, born near Newcastle upon Tyne, where he spent most of his life and established a school of engraving. He was apprenticed at 14 to Ralph Beilby, an engraver and jeweller with whom he was later in partnership for 20 years. A bird-watcher and countryman, Bewick's finest work is in natural history illustrations particularly to a number of his books, including A General History of Quadrupeds (1790) and A History of British Birds (1797, 1804). He is equally admired for his tailpieces, which are exquisite miniature scenes of shrewdly observed incidents of rustic life and manners in Georgian England. Regarded as the father of modern wood engraving, Bewick halted the decline of engraving into a primarily reproductive technique and brought to it new expressive possibilities. His Memoirs were published in part in 1862 and in full in 1975.

June Cochrane

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Thomas Bewick (byōō´Ĭk), 1753–1828, English wood engraver. Bewick pioneered in the revival of original wood engraving. Among his famous early works are his illustrations for John Gay's Fables (1779), for Aesop's Select Fables (1784), and for Ralph Beilby's General History of Quadrupeds (1790). In 1789 he engraved the Chillingham Bull, considered one of his finest blocks. He is best known for his classic illustrations of Beilby's History of British Birds (2 vol., 1797–1804).

See his memoirs (1862); biographies by R. Robinson (1887, repr. 1972) and J. Uglow (2007); studies by A. Dobson (1884, repr. 1969), R. Ruzicka (1943), G. Reynolds (1949), I. Bain (1979), and D. Gardner-Medwin, ed. (2003).