York artist Gerard Hobson turns Beningbrough Hall into a winter wildlife wonderland

York artist Gerard Hobson with his wren installation beneath the Clock Tower at Beningbrough Hall, near York. Picture: Sue Jordan

YORK artist Gerard Hobson will hold the first of three print-making workshops in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, on Saturday to tie in with his Winter Wildlife In Print exhibition and installations at the National Trust property.

Alas all three 10am sessions – using Beningbrough’s garden for inspiration – are fully booked: the first two, this weekend and on February 8, focusing on linoprint making; the third, on February 22, being a family printmaking session.

Hare, by Gerard Hobson, one of the linoprints in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall

Hobson’s Hayloft print exhibition and 14 sculptural scenes in the outbuildings, gardens, grounds and parkland are inspired by creatures that make Beningbrough their winter home.

Throughout winter until March 1, they can be seen only on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 3.30pm, and additionally during the February half term. To plan a visit, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough for more information.

A bird collage by Gerard Hobson

Created out of linoprints, cut out and mounted to make Hobson’s 3D installations, birds are swooping, climbing or nesting among the trees, from owls and robins to cuckoos, wrens and swifts.

Eyes should be kept peeled for the naughty magpies with their stolen ring. Do look out, too, beyond the ha-ha to the parkland to spot a pair of boxing hares, better seen close-up should anyone be carrying binoculars.

Gerard Hobson at work in his York studio

Bang goes the common knowledge, by the way, that boxing hares are a brace of males scrapping over a female. Apparently, as a sign reveals, the fights involve a male and a female, not welcoming his persistent attention. Who knew, the lady hares are effectively saying “Do one” or “Get yourself a better chat-up line”!

These installations are the first time Gerard Hobson has used his work in this way, and in creating the exhibition, he has made many new pieces especially for the Beningbrough garden. Not only birds, but other animals too make an appearance in unexpected places, searching for food and preparing to hibernate or sleep, whether bats, mice, stoats or a hedgehog.

Pheasant, one of the linoprints by Gerard Hobson, at Beningbrough Hall’s Hayloft gallery

Helen Osbond, exhibition manager for the National Trust, says: “We’re thrilled to host so much of Gerard’s work at Beningbrough this winter. In working towards the exhibition, it’s been a real insight to see how, as an artist, he draws on his botanist background in his designs, and there’s a short video in the bothy showing the process and steps taken in the intricate art of linoprinting.” 

Make sure to head upstairs in the stables to the Hayloft for an indoor exhibition showcasing more of Gerard’s printed work, all for sale.

A close-up of the wrens, one of 14 sculptural scenes by Gerard Hobson at Beningbrough Hall this winter

“It’s not only the chance to discover the series of sculptural scenes, we want the visit to be an immersive experience,” adds Helen. “Visitors can create a feeder in the bothy and pick up one of the special colouring-in sheets in the walled garden restaurant, while in the laurel den there’s a dawn chorus soundscape; a reminder of warmer days to come.”

Did you know?

SINCE childhood, Gerard Hobson has had a love for birds, animals and art. His fascination with wildlife saw him qualify as a zoologist from Bangor University in 1984 and he then worked for a couple of years for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust as a botanist. Later he became an illustrator for the trust, working on leaflets and sign boards.

Artist Gerard Hobson surveys his wren work at Beningbrough Hall

After relocating up north, Gerard worked for Yorkshire Wildlife and continued to develop his work on a freelance basis.

In more recent years, he has turned his hand to woodcarving and these days focuses his attentions on print making, having studied the art form in York.