Collector's Corner: Cecil Aldin (1870-1935)
By Renee Visalli
Before Snoopy and Woodstock, Garfield and Odie, there was another famous animal pair, Cracker and Micky. Who? Cracker the English Bull Terrier and Micky the Irish Wolfhound were two favorite models and pets of British sporting artist Cecil Aldin, whose name you have no doubt come across if you have ever searched for dog collectibles online.
Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin was born in Slough, England in 1870 and was successful in his own time as an illustrator of books and magazines, a painter, and a writer. His sporting art featured one of his lifelong passions, hunting. He became famous for his watercolors and prints showing foxhunting scenes in the English countryside, as well as his ability to portray the dogs, horses, and animals that were the protagonists of these scenes.
Aldin's art has become increasingly popular with time and he is appreciated today for his special talent in sketching and painting dogs. In a funny pose, the tilt of a head or a cocked ear, Aldin captured the individual character of the many dogs and breeds he worked with. His art shows the camaraderie he felt with his canine friends and models, though his work is never overly cute or sweet.
Aldin's talents were greatly appreciated by his contemporaries. As a result, there is a wide range of collectibles available today that bear his famous dog images. Between 1934 and 1985, Royal Doulton produced the "Dogs of Character" series of fine bone china figurines based on Cecil Aldin illustrations. Royal Doulton also produced the "Aldin's Dogs" series of decorative plates and small trays for approximately twenty years beginning in the mid 1920s.
In the 1930s, the English tile manufacturers Carter and Company of Poole produced a series of decorative tiles featuring Aldin's dogs. These figurines, plates, and tiles appear occasionally on eBay and can be found by searching other online auctions and galleries as well.
Original works of art and prints bearing Aldin's dog images are extremely popular with collectors today. When adding Cecil Aldin original art and prints to a collection, it is important to read carefully and fully understand the item description. Original works of art, which include watercolor paintings and pencil, ink, or pastel drawings, are at the top of the price list of Aldin collectibles. Due to limited quantity and the uniqueness of each piece, original watercolors and drawings cost thousands of dollars and should be purchased from a reputable source, as it can be difficult for the beginning collector's eye to distinguish between an original watercolor or drawing, an antique print, and a modern print.
Limited edition prints signed and numbered by Cecil Aldin himself follow original works of art in the pricing structure. The rarity of these original limited edition prints will only increase, as the metal printing plates originally used to produce these prints were destroyed in World War II. Accordingly, no new editions of Aldin's prints pulled from these original plates can ever be issued.
Inexpensive new editions of Aldin's prints created with modern printing processes can be found in online shops and poster stores, although these are considered decorative and not collectible. Some of these may find their way into online auctions and should be accurately labeled by the seller in the description. Many other prints found on eBay are actually pages taken from Aldin's books and may date to Aldin's lifetime or could be from more modern publications.
The early books contain images printed with the original printing methods and hold more value as collectibles than pages from recent publications printed with modern methods.
Early edition Cecil Aldin dog books are highly sought after by collectors. As with his artwork, it is important to read the fine print in the item description, as new editions of these books are still being published today.
First edition Cecil Aldin dog books can be found online in a range of prices from under $50 to hundreds of dollars, depending on condition and whether the book bears the added value of the artist's signature.
Cracker the Bull Terrier and Micky the Irish Wolfhound are featured in the book "Sleeping Partners," originally published in 1929 with a new edition published in 2001. First editions of "Sleeping Partners" can still be found by searching online auctions and book dealers, and range in price from approximately $150 to several hundred dollars.
"Sleeping Partners" features sketches of Cracker and Micky together in a variety of comical positions on the sofa in Aldin's studio as they endeavor to light upon the most comfortable sleeping arrangement. Cracker outlived Aldin by two years and seven months, and when he died was famous enough to receive his own obituary in the London newspaper The Times.
Cecil Aldin's dog art is special within the large and increasingly popular field of dog collectibles. His dog images convey a timeless sense of joy, a joy that existed between the artist and his beloved models and is now passed on to the modern-day collector.
Cecil Aldin's autobiography (The title demonstrates the artist's sense of humor): "Time I Was Dead: Pages from My Autobiography" by Cecil Aldin, 1934.
Cecil Aldin's biography: "Cecil Aldin, the Story of a Sporting Artist" by Roy Heron, 1981.
Aldin's biography and autobiography are becoming increasingly rare and as a result more expensive. They can sometimes be found on the following sites:
(Offers a nice selection of out-of-print books.)
(For both new editions and out-of-print Cecil Aldin books.)
It may be worthwhile checking a nearby library for Cecil Aldin books. A copy of his biography, for example, is available for in-library use at The Boston Public Library.
"Cecil Aldin's Art-Exhibition Catalogue 1990," published to accompany the exhibition of 123 Cecil Aldin works of art held by The British Sporting Art Trust in 1990. Can be ordered online through The British Sporting Art Trust.
About the author:
Renee Visalli (eBay User ID ellisbelle1) is the owner of Ellis Belle Vintage Greeting Card Creations, which features greeting cards based on vintage images of dogs and cats and can be visited at http://www.ellisbelle.com. She collects antique prints and postcards of dogs and cats, as well as postcards with holiday and patriotic themes. Renee grew up in Maine and is currently living in Turin, Italy, home of the 2006 Winter Olympics. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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