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"Big Ben in Garden" Portrait of a Bulldog
Arthur Wardle (England, 1864-1949)
Pastel on paper
Circa 1900
13 x 9 inches

Though he made his reputation with large-scale oils, Wardle is now remembered for his pastels, Christopher Wood considering them ‘probably his best medium … in which he made many wonderful studies of animals’ (The Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1978, page 498). Indeed, these were praised as early as 1916, in an article in The Studio magazine, as ‘more than just things seen, they are felt and understood, and they have the subtle spirit which comes only in the interpretation of an artist who is himself in sympathy with the curious personalities which are presented to him’. He had the supernatural ability to render texture, color, light & shade, capturing all spontaneously and accurately with each aspect serving to symbolize his deep empathy and relationship to his subjects.

For the lovers of canines, Arthur Wardle is one of the pre-eminent painters of dogs that England has produced.

Biographical detail
Born in 1864 and evidently self-taught-having not attended art school-Arthur Wardle exhibited his first painting in the Royal Academy in 1880, at the age of only sixteen. Until retirement in 1935, Wardle had over one hundred of his works were accepted by the Academy; he also exhibited with the Society of British Artists, and in 1931 had a solo show at the Fine Art Society. He became a member of the Pastel Society in 1911, and of the Royal Institute of Watercolours, and the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists from 1922.

He was similarly versatile with his subjects, which (although they were mainly animals) included almost every species, from the exotic, to the domestic as well as farm animals. For the first ten years of his career, however, he produced mainly landscapes; it was about 1890 that his extraordinary ability to depict any animal which moved became apparent, and from that point forward he concentrated on animal-painting – particularly big cats and domestic dogs. His submissions to the Academy cleverly included not only these straightforward studies of creatures within landscape settings, hunting, playing or resting, but also mythological subjects which combined animals with the classical gods, thus investing his subjects with the respectability of history painting. Examples include The flute of Pan (Christie’s, 1996) and The enchantress (Christie’s, 1997).

Pastel painting acquired a new lease of life from the 1890s, and Wardle was profoundly taken with the medium. Pastels made it possible for him to produce rapid studies of creatures in constant motion, and to do so in pure colors on tinted paper; some of his best work is in this medium.

Animal Painter renowned for his Dog Portraits and one of the pre-eminent animal and sporting painters of his generation. He became very popular with the public for his oil paintings of dogs, particularly terriers; he worked for dog breeders, immortalizing their champions, and was also commissioned to produce designs for cigarette cards, book illustrations, postcards, and boxes of chocolates. He famously created a poster for recruitment during WWI.

Wardle eventually settled in St John’s Wood, London so that he was close to London Zoo. This is where most of his initial studies were made with the addition of his collection of animal skeletons and models.

Works by Arthur Wardle can be found in numerous museums from London to New Zealand to Wyoming and beyond. 

"Big Ben in Garden" Portrait of a Bulldog by Arthur Wardle (England, 1864-1949)

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