Photograph by Paul Newman

In Pursuit of Spring
27 March – 27 June

Black Swan Arts have joined forces with Somerset Art Works for our first exhibition since last year’s coronavirus lockdown. ‘In Pursuit of Spring’ has been inspired by poet Edward Thomas’ account of his journey by bicycle between London and Somerset to meet the arrival of spring in 1913.

Responding to various themes in Thomas’ book, In Pursuit of Spring, such as hope, change and renewal, around 50 Somerset Art Works members have created artwork to illustrate the Somerset leg of Thomas’ journey. He enters the county near Farleigh Hungerford and travels west through Norton St Philip, Shepton Mallet, Wells and Glastonbury, eventually arriving on Cothelstone Hill in the Quantocks on 28 March, as the storm clouds of the Great War gathered. Thomas was killed four years later at the Battle of Arras. The work will be displayed alongside text from the book which is published by Little Toller Books of Dorset.

“In March 1913, as the storm clouds of the Great War gathered, Edward Thomas set out from the suburbs of South London and travelled on his bicycle through Surrey, Hampshire and Wiltshire towards the Somerset coast. He was a thirty-five-year-old writer at the time, a husband and father, a lover of poetry and places, who took to the road to meet the arrival of spring.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the natural world has been an important consolation for many of us. Now, when we all need a sense of hope and renewal, Thomas’ descriptions of springtime Somerset – the ‘noble elms’, verdant banks teaming with celandine, pennywort and cranesbill, the calls of larks and linnets – are a poignant reminder of the beauty of our county. This exhibition brings together Thomas’ text with contemporary images and representations of Somerset, and is a wonderful way to celebrate the reopening of Black Swan Arts – almost 108 years to the day since Thomas completed his journey.

View the full collection in our online shop

Watch the In Pursuit of Spring video

Co-curators Emma Tuck and Paul Newman discuss the ideas and themes behind the exhibition, and the book which inspired it, in this short film by Hannah Earl.

View the exhibition catalogue

View the accompanying exhibition catalogue featuring artworks, quotes from ‘In Pursuit of Spring’ and a map of the journey.

front cover of the exhibition catalogue

Read the write up from the Edward Thomas Fellowship

The Edward Thomas Fellowship were also keen to spread the news of this exhibition and included a write up in their newsletter.