28 April 1870 – 6 January 1935

Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin was a British artist and illustrator best known for his paintings and sketches of animals, sports, and rural life. Aldin executed village scenes and rural buildings in chalk, pencil and also wash sketching. He was an enthusiastic sportsman and a Master of Fox Hounds.

Born in Slough, Aldin was educated at Eastbourne College and Solihull Grammar School. Cecil Aldin’s father, a builder, was a keen amateur artist, so Cecil began drawing at an early age. He studied art at Albert Joseph Moore’s studio in Kensington but, dissatisfied with the teaching methods, left after a month to study animal anatomy at the National Art Training School in South Kensington. He later attended a summer school run byWilliam Frank Calderon in Midhurst, Sussex. Aldin left the school when he became ill with rheumatic fever, but shortly afterward sold his first drawing, which appeared in The Building News of September 12, 1890. This was followed by a drawing of a dog show purchased by The Graphic in 1891.  While in Chelsea, he often drew in London Zoological Gardens, and an early work on a zoo tiger, drawn from life, turned out to be a copyright of a Gambier Bolton photograph. Aldin also produced some work for Cadbury’s advertising. In 1894 Aldin was commissioned by The Pall Mall Budget to illustrate the serialization of stories from Rudyard Kipling’s The Second Jungle Book.

At the invitation of genre painter Walter Dendy Sadler, Aldin stayed in Chiddingstone where he befriended Phil May, John Hassall, and Lance Thackeray and together with them, Dudley Hardy and Tom Browne, founded the London Sketch Club. The birth of his son and daughter inspired a series of nursery pictures which, together with his large series of prints of Fallowfield Hunt, Bluemarket Races, Harefield Harriers and Cottesbrook Hunt, brought him much popularity.  He joined the Chelsea Arts Club and held his first exhibition in Paris in 1908. An exhibition in Paris in 1909 was well received and extended his fame to a wider audience. He illustrated the 1910 edition of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. A popular book by Aldin was Sleeping Partners, a sequence of pastel drawings of his dogs on a couch. It included his Irish Wolfhound Micky, a puppy purchased from Florence Nagle as a gift for his wife, and his favorite model, Cracker, a Bull Terrier with a dark spot over one eye. Aldin moved to the Henley area when his interest in hunting, horses and dogs increased, and in 1910 he became Master of the South Berkshire Hunt, as well as being associated with other local groups. From 1913 to 1914 he lived in The Abbots, Sulhamstead Abbots and was warden of St Mary’s Church.

At the outbreak of World War I, Aldin was the sole owner of the South Berkshire Foxhounds and became a purchasing officer for the Remounts, responsible for a depot for Army Remounts. Other artists, including Lionel Edwards, Alfred Munnings G.D. Armour and Cedric Morris, also worked in the Remount Depots during the war. Such was the army’s demand for horses that Aldin’s mounts were among the first to be given to the army. Aldin set up a series of Remount Depots in Berkshire, including, as an experiment, one run entirely by women because there were no longer enough men available for the job. The experiment was deemed a success and a number of women’s army depots were established. This brought Aldin to the attention of the Women’s Work Sub-Committee of the fledgling Imperial War Museum, which, in February 1919, asked to purchase two of her wartime paintings. Women Employed in the Remount Depot, The Kennels, Pangbourne was duly purchased, but Aldin was unwilling to release the second requested painting. The original of A Land Girl Ploughing, a realistic depiction of a lone Land Girl driving two large horses, had been made on an old reused canvas using leftover stage paint and, according to Aldin, was not suitable for a national collection. Aldin agreed to replicate the painting with better quality materials, and a member of the Women’s Land Army was sent to his studio in Pangbourne to impersonate the plow girl and ensure that all uniform details were correct. The painting is considered among the most iconic images of the Women’s Land Army’s World War I work. Aldin lost his son Dudley at Vimy Ridge in 1917, which affected him deeply for many years and had a profound effect on his style of work.

After the war Aldin devoted much of his time to organizing pony and dog shows, particularly at Exmoor, where he followed the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. He continued to paint, often large equestrian portraits, and completed numerous magazine and book illustrations. In the 1920s he added more prints of hunting scenes to create a series of “Hunting Countries,” as well as concentrating on his own and visiting dogs’ studies, which were always popular. In 1923 he published a short series of fully illustrated books, Old Manor Houses and Old Inns. A series of prints depicting old inns, old manors and cathedrals was also created.

In 1930 Aldin retired to live in the Balearic Islands, hoping that the warmer climate would relieve his arthritis. He lived in Palma and other locations in Majorca while continuing to paint and engrave, producing some of his best work, including illustrations for The Bunch Book (1932), about Bunch, a Sealyham Terrier owned by James Douglas. In January 1935, while returning to England for a visit, he suffered a heart attack while still at sea. When his ship docked, Aldin was rushed to the London clinic but could not be saved.