Monday, February 13, 2017
He was particularly noted for painting of horses, dogs and hunting scenes—a hobby he particularly enjoyed. The anonymous writer of Aldin’s obituary in The Times noted, “Criticism was possible against his drawings of horses: landscapes and architectural studies have been done better by others. But there never yet has been a painter of dogs fit to hold a candle to him. Of all his immensely diverse interests the study of dogs came foremost. as an artist he had the ability to portray the character of his subject: as a man he understood that subject with the sympathy that enabled him to show us our very friend himself … Somebody once complained that his drawings of dogs were ‘too human’; they were not, but often showed character that even their owners had not noticed.”
Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin was born in Slough, Buckinghamshire, on 28 April 1870, the son of Charles, a well-to-do builder and contractor, and Sarah Aldin. From an early age he was keen on sketching animals and the countryside and he was encouraged in his artistic aspirations by his father, who readily agreed to his studying art. At first a boarder at Eastbourne College, he later attended Solihull Grammar School before studying anatomy at South Kensington and animal painting at Midhurst, Sussex, under W. Frank Calderon, who went on to found the School of Animal Painting in 1894 and later produced a definitive book on the subject, Animal Painting and Anatomy (1936).
From this small beginning, Aldin rapidly established himself as a versatile and productive artist. He moved first to Chelsea and then to Bedford Park, Chiswick, where he found himself in a brotherhood of artists which included James Pryde and his brother-in-law William Nicholson—the Beggarstaff Brothers—and John Hassall, who was to become a very good friend. Aldin’s other associates included Phil May, Dudley Hardy, Lance Thackeray and many others; this wide range of friends and colleagues led to much cross-pollination of ideas and techniques.
One of his earliest commissions came from a Master of Foxhounds who wanted a portrait. The M.F.H. then asked for a portrait of a horse, an old polo pony, with the horse itself as payment, which Aldin housed in a bicycle shed. Before long, he could be found hacking on his own mount from Bedford Park to meets at Esher. Over a short period he accumulated a second horse (again in exchange for a portrait of a hunter), a Shetland pony, a donkey, two monkeys and thirteen dogs.
His artwork sales paid for his sporting hobbies and there was no shortage of magazines and newspapers who wanted Aldin’s work. He found early success when he was asked to illustrated Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Stories’ in Pall Mall Budget (1894-95). He produced numerous sporting colour prints as well as a series on old inns of England (1919-20), illustrated R. S. Surtees’ famous hunting character Jorrocks (Jorrocks on ‘Uniting, 1909; Handley Cross, 1911), Dickens’ Pickwick Papers (1910) and many other books, as well as contributing to Ladies Pictorial, Illustrated London News, Sketch, The Gentlewoman, Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Queen, Penny Illustrated Paper, The Sphere, Country Gentleman, Printers’ Pie, Windsor, Cassell’s Family Magazine, Ludgate Monthly, Royal Magazine, Black and White, Good Words, Boy’s Own Paper, The Captain, Animal World, Land and Water Illustrated, The Poster, Pearson’s Magazine and Punch, amongst others.
Cecil was married to Marguerite Dorothy Morris, daughter of merchant Frederic Hall Morris, on 18 June 1895 at Ascension, Balham Hill. The newly married couple lived at ‘The Limes’, Flanders Road, Bedford Park, where their son Dudley Cecil Aldin was born in 1897, and, from around 1898, at 41 Priory Road, Chiswick, where daughter Gwendolene Mabel Aldin was born in 1899. He subsequently moved to Henley-on-Thames.
Aldin suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, aggravated by falls in the hunting field, which forced him to give up the sport. He retired to the Balearic Islands, taking all his dogs with him (horses were left behind with approved new owners) and made his home at Camp de Mar, Andraitz, Mallorca. Fortunately, he made many new friends amongst the visitors to the islands and was able to continue to work, despite his indifferent health.
He died at 20 Devonshire Place, Marylebone, London, on 6 January 1935. He was survived by his wife and daughter, his son having been killed in action whilst serving with the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1916.