There are two excellent exhibitions at The Museum of Somerset in Taunton, running into July. Both of them justify making a special effort to get in to see them (not on Sundays or Mondays – the museum is closed); two exhibiting artists from different eras, both illustrators and both free to enter exhibitions.

HARRY FRIER was born in Edinburgh in 1849, went to London then married a Creech St Michael girl. After a busy, but fading, career he died in the workhouse in 1921. His drawings of local scenes in Victorian and Edwardian times are competent architectural records of many long-gone buildings and street scenes in Taunton and its surrounding villages. However, as photography became commonplace he found it harder to get commissions, his wife died, he turned to drink and ended his days in poverty. He is a classic example of an artist whose ‘wealth’ is created years after their death.

The second exhibition, the larger and most exciting, is of VICTOR AMBRUS’s work, known to many from his ‘Time Team’ drawings of historic, often gory, scenes, Victor was born in Budapest in 1935, fled to Austria in 1956 then on to study in London. His stand-alone works and examples of his book illustrations from history and folk tales are a joy to see. The illustrations of Moby Dick alone justify visiting the exhibition.

Well illustrated books are special. Victor Ambrus’s work ranks alongside Rackham and Beardsley. I would give my bottom dollar to have his illustrations in my published fable The Battle of Slotterham Hall, AD1929, who wouldn’t and no doubt I would have to break my bank to be granted such a privilege.


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