Original works of art
| Arthur Wardle
|(English, 1864 -1949 )
Arthur Wardle was a prolific and very talented late nineteenth century artist
who created an extraordinary body of work, yet surprisingly little has been
written about him. Known by some as a painter of big game and wildlife, he is
for dog lovers one of the pre-eminent painters of pure bred dogs that England
Wardle’s work falls easily into two groupings: portrayals of wildlife,
and works that depict dogs. The latter group may be divided into several sections:
those paintings which he completed on his own, rather than as commissions; commissioned
paintings of pure bred dogs, and works which were popularized through their
use in books as well as on cigarette cards, prints and postcards.
Along with his paintings of dogs, Wardle’s paintings of lions, tigers,
elephants, polar bears and other wildlife have in recent times become highly
desirable, as they were during his lifetime. Wardle exhibited some 113 paintings
at The Royal Academy between 1880 and 1938, the majority of which appear to
have been of wildlife. George III had founded The Royal Academy in 1768, and
it was extremely influential. Since its foundation, it has been run as an art
school, with annual exhibitions to which artists of any nationality might apply.
The Royal Academy Schools stopped each summer for approximately two months to
mount these annual exhibitions, to which all artists could submit their work.
It became increasingly difficult to be accepted, however, because the Hanging
Committee, which was made up of five to seven Academicians, accepted only a
limited number of the submissions. Of the 13,000 works submitted in 1899, for
example, only 2,000 were accepted.
In addition to his exhibits at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions, Wardle
also showed his work at commercial galleries, including The Fine Art Society,
today still located on Bond Street in London. Wardle was equally proficient
in pastel and watercolor as he was in oils, and he was elected a member of The
Royal Society of Painters in Watercolors in 1922.
Among Wardle’s best known dog paintings are those he completed for the
owner of the famous d’Orsay Smooth Fox Terrier Kennels, Mr. Francis Redmond.
The famous original version of the painting, entitled The Totteridge Eleven
hangs in the London offices of The Kennel Club, but another version may be seen
in America at the offices of The American Kennel Club.
This painting is one of a number of large paintings that he completed, among
which were Bulldogs of the Twentieth Century and Field Spaniels of The Twentieth
Century, once in the collection of the late prominent dog fancier, Geraldine
Rockefeller Dodge. They present important dogs of the day, in classic, pure
bred dog poses.
Wardle was a master of the pure bred dog portrait, and in those paintings which
he did on his own, as well as, his commissioned works. One is tempted to think
that he favorably modified the appearance of his subjects. The portrait of “Ch.
Mistress Royal and Ch Master Royal in the collection of The American Kennel
club, for instance, shows the famous Airedales in a classic show pose, their
dark rich coat silhouetted against a light autumnal background of pale browns
and beige’s. While they were top-winning dogs there has been some discussion
that as Wardle knew the standards of the dogs so well, that he often would improve
their appearance to please the dog’s owner.
This notion was reinforced a few years ago during an interview with the late
Mrs. James A. Farrell, Jr., a prominent Fox Terrier and Greyhound breeder, whose
foundation dogs were painted by Mildred Megargee . She recounted how she had
visited the famous Mr. Wardle in 1938 with the Baron von der Hoop, who had commissioned
the artist to paint a portrait of his Smooth Fox Terrier, “Solus Joy.”
Wardle, who was living in a brick row house in Shepherd’s Bush at the
time, was working on a large painting of lions that he was to exhibit at The
Royal Academy, but he still found time for his dog portrait commissions. Knowing
the standard for the Smooth Fox Terrier very well, and having painted so many
excellent specimens, Mrs. Farrell felt that he changed the appearance of Baron
von der Hoop’s dog to make it conform more closely to the breed standard.
Indeed, Mrs. Farrell was to take the story further. She explained that so many
of Mr. Wardle’s paintings had been published in print form, on cigarette
cards or postcards, that the paintings themselves had become more well known
than the dogs. Furthermore, she reasoned, that if breeders outside of England,
(and especially in America), knew the appearance of these dogs only through
Mr. Wardle’s paintings, that they may have bred their dogs to make them
appear more like the paintings.
Arthur Wardle was a prolific artist, and his paintings reached a very wide audience
through printed reproductions, both in color and black and white. The practice
of reproducing one’s paintings in print form had in the nineteenth century
been perfected by Edwin Landseer’s brother Tom, for very few of Edwin’s
important painting of dogs were not reproduced for wide distribution as prints.
This was to a lesser extent also the case with John Emms and Maud Earl, but
Arthur Wardle took it to new levels.
The number of Wardle’s paintings reproduced on collectible cigarette cards
alone, came to some 250. At least 80 of his paintings and watercolors were reproduced
on postcards, and Spratts produced 36 of his images on cards. In addition to
these, several of the paintings which he did for the d’Orsay Kennels were
reproduced as fine art prints, including The Totteridge Eleven of 1897, Ch.
D’Orsay’s Donna and Ch. D’Orsay’s Model as well as Ch.
Dame Fortune. The Mansell company was very successful with them, producing them
in unlimited runs, as required. In an article on Arthur Wardle in The Kennel
Gazette, the British writer Peter Embling pointed out that Mansell sold the
plates to Spratt’s in 1924 and they reprinted them, with their own credit.
Spratt’s exhibited the prints at the Cruft’s Dog Show and published
postcards showing a sepia image of each of the images.
Wardle’s works were further popularized with the publication of several
books which used his paintings or drawings as illustrations. In 1890 Rawdon
Lee commissioned the artist to illustrate A History and Description of the Collie
. In 1893 he was commissioned to illustrate a volume of Modern Dogs. A year
later he illustrated the Sporting and Terrier volumes in the series These books
were beautifully produced and appeared in several editions. Another dog book
which received wide distribution was one simply entitled Show Dogs, by Theo
Marples. Marples had in 1911 ran a series of articles in the weekly dog periodical
Our Dogs on the “ideal” of various breeds. A new breed was done
each week, with an illustration by Wardle. The series was eventually put together,
with 92 drawings by Wardle in all.
Wardle’s success as an artist was a combination of his abilities as an
artist and his affection for and understanding of, pure bred dogs. Wardle was
also fortunate in having been born in an era when dog painting was an accepted
genre, with an appreciative public anxious to purchase fine paintings. He reached
his heyday during a period in which both conformation dog shows and field trials
were at a peak . Moreover, it seems that, even more than photographers, Wardle
could capture the ideal of a certain breed.
Unlike earlier Victorian artists such as Horatio Henry Couldery or George Earl, Wardle
painted with a quick, almost painterly brush stroke, and his palette seems to
have been affected by scientific color theories that had an even greater effect
on the Impressionist and Post Impressionist artists of the late nineteenth century.
Many dog fanciers think of Wardle only as a painter of terriers, but this is
an unfair assessment of his considerable talent. Whether in oils, watercolor
or pastel, he undoubtedly painted virtually very breed of dog in England during
his lifetime, with at least 250 known images. Like most other artists, however,
Wardle’s work can vary in quality, and one should be careful not to buy
just because of the name. Because he was well known in his lifetime, his works
have been copied and his name applied to inferior work.