I’ve recently been cataloging some of our Cecil Aldin books and I’ve been enjoying his work so I’m sharing it, and some of what I’ve learned about him, here with you. Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) was a successful and prolific artist. He is probably best known for his dog portraits and sporting scenes, but his illustrations filled books, magazines, and newspapers, and frequently appeared on posters.
Aldin believed that it was critical to work from life. In much the same way that writers are told to write what they know, he drew and painted things that he knew well. He was a life long hunter and followed fox hounds, harriers, beagles, and bassets during his sporting career. In fact he attained the office of Master twice. First as Master of the Peppard Farmers’ Harriers, and later as Master of Foxhounds for the South Berks Hunt.
His long and intimate knowledge of hunt riding gives his hunt scenes authenticity. He frequently sketched in the saddle and was able to capture the idiosyncrasies of individual riders to such a degree that people who knew them were able to identify them in paintings.
After his death his daughter published one of his sketchbooks and it provides interesting insight to his artistic process. I love how the setting is so concrete while the riders, horses, and hounds drift through the scene like ghosts.
Compare this sketch of the South Berks near Shinfield with a final painting of a similar scene.
Aldin was surrounded by dogs and hounds of all sorts his entire life. Here are a couple pictures of his “models” in the studio.
This photo and the following etching of Micky the wolfhound once again show Aldin working from life.
Aldin’s favorite model was the bull terrier, Cracker.
Cracker outlived his master by over two years. He was so popular with the public that his own eventual death received coverage on the radio and in the newspapers. Several papers printed obituaries.
Aldin’s life story is full of interesting episodes and people. One story that really caught my eye has to do with the remount station that he ran during World War I. Despite the doubts of the war office, he staffed his remount station entirely with women.
From his hunting experiences he knew many women who were skilled horse handlers. In the end there were over 100 women, from all social classes and of all ages, working in the remount station. It was so successful that by the end of the war, women were employed in remount stations across England.
If you would like to read more about Cecil Aldin’s life, or to see some of his illustrations and paintings, stop by the Library and see me. I’d love to share some more stories from his interesting life.
Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail