Review: 'Extraordinary Sketchbooks' exhibition at the Mount House Gallery

Written by Vincent Stokes on .

The epithet in the title - ‘extraordinary’ - suggests something significantly beyond what one might expect to find in an artist’s sketchbook. That sketchbooks are wonderful things is beyond serious questioning, so I guess it’s a matter of definition.

The title of this engaging, rich exhibition at the Mount House Gallery is in fact taken from a book produced by one of the exhibitors – Extraordinary Sketchbooks’by Jane Stobart. Indeed, Jane’s skilful prints are the first pieces that begin this rich and varied journey through the work of the twelve artists included in the show.


Examples of completed pieces by each artist are displayed on the gallery walls, whilst the accompanying sketchbooks are housed in display cases and on wall-mounted boxes. Written information on each exhibitor’s work is readily available. 

All of this adds up to a thoughtful, inventively presented exhibition of which the College should be proud.


The opportunity to gain an insight into the working practices of visual artists, their thought processes, their particular way of translating what they observe is a rare treat.


Drawing is achievable by everyone. Sketchbooks are bound by no rules - they are personal documents. They are free from external assessment - they are ‘safe places’ where we can explore, dream, record – where the words ‘bad’ or ‘failure’ have no legitimacy. I would love to think that by visiting this exhibition, you might be prompted to begin a sketchbook or two of your own.

I challenge you – whether you see yourself as an ‘artist’ or not - not to find something in this exhibition that sparks your interest.

Further information can be found on the Marlborough College website or from the exhibition’s curator Jonathan Parnham: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


This exhibition at Mount House Gallery, Marlborough College (next to the Art School) is open until 25 February 2018, but closed between 10 and 18 February.  The Gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays 2pm-5pm or by appointment - call 01672 892411.