Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie Together

by Stephen J. Gertz

In 1929 Cecil Aldin (1870-1935), an artist with a passion for dogs, published Sleeping Partners, a charming series of twenty colored sketches of his two pooches, Micky, an Irish Wolfhound, and Cracker, a Bull Terrier with a dark patch over one eye, asleep and cuddling on Aldin's sofa. They were, as he dubbed them,  "The Professionals," sophisticated canine models, as opposed to "The Amateurs," visiting dogs lacking poise for posing before Aldin.

Micky and Cracker were Il Divos who needed room to express their artistic souls. Aldin had converted an old Army barracks into a sixty-foot long studio and this allowed his models a runway to strut their stuff for hours until settling into a pose that pleased them and Aldin, who, apparently, had the patience of a saint. "Never work with children or animals" (W.C. Fields).

Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) “was a most prolific artist and illustrator. While living in London, he became friends with the Beggarstaff Brothers (see Houfe under William Nicholson and James Pryde), John Hassall, Phil May and Dudley Hardy, and their influence on his work was great. He produced a great number of prints, a select list of which is included with a comprehensive bibliography in Heron’s book [Cecil Aldin: The Story of a Sporting Artist (1981)]. He did a great deal of advertising work, including posters, for such companies as Bovril, Colman (manufacturers of starch and mustard), and Cadbury’s, and Royal Doulton produced about sixty items with Aldin drawings between 1910 and 1939. Horses, dogs and the English countryside were the major topics of Aldin’s illustrations. The obituary in The Times asserted that ‘there never yet has been a painter of dogs fit to hold a candle to him…Cecil Aldin can justly be described as one of the leading spirits in the renaissance of British sporting art’” (Alan Horne, The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators, p. 67). 

Other books written and illustrated by Aldin include Old Inns (1921); Old Manor Houses (1923); Cathedral[s] and Abbey Churches of England (1924); Romances of the Road (1928); An Artist’s Models (1930); Exmoor, the Riding Playground of England (1935); and Hunting Scenes (1936).

ALDIN, Cecil. Sleeping Partners. A Series of Episodes. London: Eyre and Spottiwoode, n.d. [1929]. First edition. Folio (12 1/2 x 9 3/8 in; 312 x 236 mm). Unpaginated. Twenty recto-only mounted colored plates.

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.

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