Wednesday 19 May 2010

Hunting print, 1912

This is one in a set of signed prints, Twelve Hunting Countries, produced in 1912 by the acclaimed animal artist, Cecil Aldin (1870-1935). It has the title 'VWH Cricklade. Into the Vale from Blunsdon', referring to the Vale of the White Horse Hunt with its kennels in Cricklade, Wiltshire and the village of Blunsdon which has since been all but swallowed up by the expansion of modern Swindon. The Hunt is shown in full cry hurtling across the road, over the neatly laid boundary hedge, past the bare pollarded trees, and on into the open winter landscape of subdued colours and small enclosed fields. Hunting was in its heyday and heroic scenes of the chase, popular amongst supporters and followers, were supplied to the market by a coterie of specialist artists including Charles "Snaffles" Johnson Payne (1884-1967) and Lionel Edwards (1878-1966) as well as Aldin himself.

Cecil Aldin, from a wealthy property developing family, trained at what is now the Royal College of Art and then at Midhurst in Sussex, under the animal artist Frank Calderon (1865-1943). From the 1890s, he enjoyed a successful and varied commercial career, designing posters, illustrating books and magazines, and creating stage sets. In his youth he developed an ongoing and consuming passion for hunting that saw him become Master of the South Berks Hunt in 1914 and for twenty years the Hunt's headquarters at Purley near Pangbourne became his base. He is pictured in his studio at the kennels below.

Aldin's book work included a series of illustrations for a 1912 edition of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty.

Aldin's art was empathetic, a visual expression of the relationship between man and beast, and he fixed in the public mind an enduring image of light and life in a horse-drawn countryside.

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