English ( b.1870 - d.1935 )
|Image size||19.3 inches x 27.8 inches ( 49cm x 70.5cm )|
|Frame size||30.1 inches x 38.4 inches ( 76.5cm x 97.5cm )|
Available for sale from Big Sky Fine Art; this original drawing by Cecil Aldin dates from the early part of the 20th century.
The drawing is signed lower right.
The work is presented and supplied in a walnut veneered pine frame from the mid-late 1970s (which is shown in these photographs). The mount and backing board have been replaced with conservation materials in 2019. The glass has been replaced at the same time with non-reflective glass (Tru Vue UltraVue® UV70). The previous gallery and framing labels have been retained and mounted on the rear of the backboard.
Formerly with the Hampton Hill Gallery, Middlesex, London.
From the late 1880s to the 1930s the British artist and illustrator Cecil Aldin was a household name with a substantial public following. Today, he is regarded as being one of the most original and very best sporting artists of the twentieth century and his work is highly collectable. As an artist Aldin preferred to work in pencil or water colour, but also produced pastels and many fine etchings. His works show great humour and precision and he was a master of caricature in the drawing of both humans and animals. Aldin was also a man of great charm and led a full, industrious and interesting life.
Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin was born in Slough, Buckinghamshire on 28 April 1870 to Charles and Sarah Aldin, (nee Windsor). He had two brothers and a sister. His father Charles was a building contractor and himself an amateur artist. Cecil was a wiry red-haired boy who started sketching at the age of 6, and showed an obvious talent, which his father encouraged. His early drawings are of animals and the countryside, with a recurrent theme of a rider being thrown from a horse, expressing his developing sense of humour.
Cecil became a boarder at Eastbourne College, but later, due to a dip in the family financial circumstances, attended Solihull Grammar School. He did not excel at school but wanted to study art. He initially studied under Albert Moore at the National Art Training School (which later became the Royal College of Art). He then studied anatomy at South Kensington and animal painting at Midhurst, Sussex, under Frank Calderon, who went on to found the School of Animal Painting in 1894. Aldin had to leave here when he developed rheumatic fever, a condition which troubled him intermittently for the rest of his life. Whilst the years of study may have refined his techniques, his talent was innate and he had a great affinity with animals, especially dogs and horses.
Aldin then moved back to live with his family, now in Clapham, until he began to sell his artwork regularly. His first sale was a drawing of a dog show which he sold to Graphic around the time of his twenty first birthday. From this small beginning he rapidly established himself as a productive and versatile artist. He moved to Chelsea, where he rented a studio, and would often draw in the London Zoological Gardens to widen his repertoire. He then moved to Bedford Park, Chiswick where he became friends with a number of other artists, including Phil May, John Hassell and Lance Thackeray. This exposed him to a variety of ideas and techniques. He became part of the brotherhood of Bohemian artists who worked and played hard and between them formed the London Sketch Club.
An early commission came from a Master of Foxhounds who wanted a portrait of an old polo pony. Aldin’s payment for this was the horse itself, which he housed in a bicycle shed. He used this horse to hack with meets at Esher. He soon obtained a second horse, also bartered in exchange for a portrait and before long had accumulated a menagerie of two horse, a Shetland pony, a donkey, two monkeys and thirteen dogs!
Aldin went on to hunt with his own pack of harrier beagles and for five seasons during World War I he was Master of the South Berkshire Foxhounds. He hunted in at least 30 counties and was able to persuade a leading sporting paper to employ him as a hunting correspondent. Thus, he combined his sporting interests with his art, one supporting the other.
Aldin became hugely successful as an illustrator and was asked to illustrate Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Stories in Pall Mall Budget (1894-95), R.S. Surtees’ famous hunting character Jorrocks, Dicken’s Pickwick Papers, an edition of Black Beauty and many other books. He also contributed to Ladies Pictorial, Illustrated London News, Sketch, The Gentlewoman, Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Queen, Punch, Boy’s Own Paper and many others. He also produced many posters, particularly for Cadburys, and designed a range of china for Royal Doulton.
Aldin was recognised by his fellow artists as well as the public. He became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, the London Sketch Club and the Chelsea Arts Club.
He had many paintings exhibited; a first exhibition in Paris in 1908 led to a second the following year, which was received with much acclaim and extended his fame to a wider audience. He became a close friend of Lance Thackery and together they explored Kent in a donkey cart!
In 1895 Cecil married Marguerite Morris, and they lived first in Bedford Park, where their son Dudley was born, then at Chiswick, where their daughter Gwendoline was born. They subsequently moved to Henley-on-Thames. The birth of his children inspired a series of nursey pictures which became very popular. The family subsequently moved to Henley-on-Thames as Aldin’s interest in hunting, horses and dogs increased. In 1910 he became Master of the South Berkshire Hunt as well as being associated with other local packs. He lived at Sulhamstead Abbots from 1913-14 and was Church warden of St Mary’s church.
When the First World War broke out Aldin was too old for active duty, but he made a significant contribution to the war effort. He became a Remount Purchasing Officer in charge of an Army Remount Depot. One of the men who worked under him was Alfred Munnings. The military demand for horses was high and it must have been difficult for him that Aldin’s own mounts were among the first to be given up to the army. Aldin set up a number of Remount Depots around Berkshire including, as an experiment, one run entirely by women. This was deemed a success and following this as number of Ladies’ Army Remount Depots were established, with his wife and daughter both making their own contributions to this work. There is no doubt that Aldin’s enlightened championing of women’s abilities boosted the war effort, as was acknowledged in the press at the time.
Aldin thus came to the attention of the Women’s Work Sub-Committee of the newly formed Imperial War Museum and in 1919 they asked to purchase two of his wartime paintings. One was released straight away – ‘Women Employed in the Remount Depot’. Aldin was however reluctant to release the second one, entitled ‘A Land Girl Ploughing’, because it had been done on old reused canvas using leftover scene paint and he considered it not suitable for a national collection. He therefore replicated the painting with better quality materials, using a member of the Women’s Land Army to model, so that all details of the uniform were correct. The painting is considered among the most iconic images of the work of the Women’s Land Army from World War One. Aldin also formed a pack of beagles for the Royal Flying Corps, which was the start of the hounds at RAF Cranwell. Aldin’s son, Dudley, served in the Great War as a second-lieutenant with the Royal Engineers. He was killed in action at Vimy Ridge in May 1916. He was just 19. This had a profound effect on Aldin and the style of his work thereafter.
After the war Aldin, who was known for his warmth of character, spent much of his time organising pony and dog shows in both the south of England and France. In 1919 he co-wrote a play for children entitled The Happy Family in which three children learn the language of the animals around them. This was produced at the Prince of Wales Theatre and later at The Strand. He also continued to paint, often large equestrian portraits. In the 1920s he completed a superb set of nostalgic prints of old coaching inns, cathedrals and manor houses, many of which continue to be reproduced on Christmas and greetings cards.
In addition to his work as an illustrator Aldin also wrote numerous books himself, which he illustrated, including Rat Catcher to Scarlet (1926), Dogs of Character (1927), Romance of the Road (1928), An Artist’s Models (1930), Mrs Tickler’s Caravan(1931) and his autobiography, Time I was Dead (1934). It has been said that his brightly coloured books with the illustrations simply outlined were the staple diet of country houses between the wars. His great ability was always in capturing the essence of a scene or the spirit of an animal.
Aldin suffered for most of his life from rheumatoid arthritis, which was aggravated by a hunting fall, and caused him to finally give up hunting. When this started to seriously affect his hands, he and his wife retired to the Beleric Islands in 1930, hoping that the warmer climate would ease his condition. They took their beloved dogs with them and made a home at Camp de Mar, Majorca, where he continued to work, and indeed produced some of his best paintings.
In 1935 Aldin travelled back to England for an operation but suffered a heart attack whilst still at sea. When his ship docked, he was rushed to the London Clinic but could not be saved. He died in London on 6 January 1935. Back in Majorca his wife had been perplexed by the most extraordinary and unprecedented howling of his Aldin’s one remaining dog, Cracker. Several hours later she received the news that her husband had died. She could not ascribe the dog’s behaviour to anything other than a psychic link between the man and his dog. Aldin’s death made front page news on both sides of the Atlantic and his obituary notice in The Times said that “Cecil Aldin can be described as one of the leading spirits in the renaissance of British sporting art”. A memorial exhibition was held in 1935. The British Sporting Art Trust held a loan exhibition of his work at the Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery; the Alpine Gallery, London; Sotheby’s, West Sussex, and in Paris in 1990/91.
Today, his works are held by the National War Museum, and notable collections world-wide.
This is an original pencil and pastel drawing dating from around the beginning of the twentieth century.
It depicts two brown horses, one darker than the other, each with white fetlocks and white blaze. They are harnesses to a lightweight fly or simple cart and are trotting. The driver, a middle-aged gentleman, is seated in the fly, and wearing a brown coat, trousers and a grey bowler hat. He has a white moustache and an expression of concentration and contentment. He is leaning forward and holding the reigns in his hands. The overall impression is one of grace and ease, created with a masterly touch and the minimum of fuss. A really classy piece.