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Back to nature

Aimée Smith, 04 October, 2018
Follow a single-track road as it drops into a deep fold of the Yorkshire Wolds and you’ll come to The Robert Fuller Gallery, home to one of Britain’s foremost wildlife artists.
 

As you approach this former farmhouse overlooking the tiny village of Thixendale, you are immediately aware of how Robert Fuller gets his inspiration. It’s not unusual to spot hares bounding across the fields here, or to glimpse owls gliding over hedgerows. And as soon as you step out of the car, the air is alive with birdsong.
Inside the elegant, beamed gallery, exquisitely detailed portraits of these shy creatures hang on the walls, and bronze sculptures glint in the soft light. The gallery is dedicated exclusively to Robert’s artwork and the majority of his subjects – ranging from robins to sparrow hawks and boxing hares to badgers – live or have nested in the garden, in sight of Robert's studio window.

Visitors are encouraged to help themselves to a warm cup of coffee whilst they browse the original artworks, limited edition prints, greeting cards, calendars and luxury tableware on display. Open every day of the year, the gallery ranks top of a TripAdvisor guide to the best art galleries in Yorkshire. And in spite of its remote location, it receives an astonishing 12,000 visitors a year, many drawn by Robert’s impressive reputation. Widely regarded as an expert on wildlife matters, he regularly appears on national television and his articles on wildlife are published each month in the regional newspaper, the Yorkshire Post.

The gallery’s popularity is also testament to the fact that there is so much for a visitor to enjoy here. Alongside the artworks are Robert’s outstanding collections of photographs of wildlife from around the world, as well as storyboards recounting his wildlife watching adventures both abroad and at home – such as the time he persuaded birds of prey to feed from his bird table! There are also video screens showing his remarkable footage of animal behaviour and live screens relaying images from inside animal and bird nests. The artist’s studio is usually open so that visitors can also see how Robert works and enjoy an exclusive glimpse of the latest painting on his easel.

Robert paints mainly in acrylics and oils, favouring a highly detailed realistic style. His commitment to authenticity is second to none and he spends months studying a particular animal or bird before settling down to accurately reflect the behaviour and character of his wild subjects in his compositions, as he tells us here:

“I prefer a detailed painting style to portray wildlife as accurately as possible. I paint from photographs and my work begins months before I sit down at my easel. I build habitats for different species and put up props for wild creatures to wander onto the set and ‘pose’ for their portraits. For instance, I spent one summer persuading a wild weasel I spotted in my garden to settle here. I put food out for it and built feeding boxes that were just the right size – any bigger and this predator’s biggest competitor, a stoat, would have tried to get in. Eventually she nested here. I then built a miniature drystone wall with a reflection pool in front of it for the weasel to drink from. My wildlife cameras then alerted me to the moment a weasel approached the pool so that I could be there to photograph it.”

This year, Robert celebrates 20 years at Fotherdale Farm in Thixendale. During this time, he has transformed the three-acre plot – planting 1,200 trees, 500 metres of hedgerows, and countless native shrubs and bushes to attract wildlife. He has also dug a water course, which includes nine ponds, and sown a wildflower meadow which hums with insects in the summer and provides seeds for the birds in the winter.
The results have been spectacular, with many kestrels, weasels and stoats, as well as several nesting pairs of owls, having made Robert’s garden their home. Badgers, foxes and deer are also regular nocturnal visitors to the farm, helping to provide a constant source of inspiration for this talented artist.
 

The Robert Fuller Gallery

You can visit Robert’s gallery any day of the week – entry is free and it’s just a 20-minute drive from the beautiful city of York. Another option is to browse his wonderful collection of wildlife-inspired products online...
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