Arthur Wardle (Attributed)

Portrait Of A Man In A Club Armchair

Arthur Wardle (Attributed)

Portrait Of A Man In A Club Armchair

This early 20th-century oil painting attributed to British artist Arthur Wardle (1864-1949) depicts a suited gentleman relaxing in a club armchair. He holds a pipe.

A precocious talent, Wardle received no academic training yet became one of the preeminent painters of his generation. Predominantly known for his naturalistic portrayals of animals, at just 16, he debuted at the Royal Academy, where he went on to show over 100 works across his flourishing career. He was considered to be a ‘natural’ and educated himself by studying subjects first-hand, overcoming artistic challenges as they arose. By learning the hard way, without shortcuts, or tried and tested methodologies, he developed a unique style, contrary to his academic contemporaries.

Wardle was different in two respects, firstly, he avoided sentimental narratives and anthropomorphic embellishments. His creatures were described exactly as they were in reality, with gory details often included. And secondly, he chose to paint ‘exotic animals’ as well as the more commonly portrayed, such as dogs, cats, and horses. His studies of tigers are particularly compelling and rendered without pretence. He spent hundreds of hours sketching at London Zoo.

Each of Wardle’s subjects carries a personality, an accurate sense of its wild characteristics. And similarly, this echoes his approach to ‘human’ portraiture, which he tackled with similar vigour. His sitters are alive, not taxidermy, and they engage with the viewer.

The sitter here, with his dark blue suit, spotty bow tie, and nonchalant charisma, looks much like the artist himself - aside from his fair hair and eye colour. It’s possibly a relative, such as his brother, Frederick Alfred Wardle (b. 1855). We discovered it hanging in a tea shop in the Cotswolds.

Wardle’s popularity led to a prosperous career and he spent many years living at the upmarket Alma Square in St John's Wood, London. The haunt of many a contemporary. His neighbour for a time was the landscape painter, Robert Gallon (1845-1925).

Across the span of his remarkable life, he exhibited extensively - equally proficient in various mediums. He was elected a member of the Pastel Society in 1911 and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1922.

Held within a period frame.

Learn more about Arthur Wardle in our directory.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 34½” x 30½” / 88cm x 78cm
Year of creation: c. 1910
Labels & Inscriptions: Canvas stamp on the reverse relates to a supplier of artist’s materials and frames, Thomas Gilbert. It dates to between 1896, when Thomas Gilbert opened his shop at 7 Euston Road, and 1914 when he died.
Provenance: Private collection, UK.
Condition: Assessed and approved by our conservator. Cleaned. Revarnished. Canvas relined. Frame with marks and signs of age.
Artist’s auction maximum: £280,000 for ‘A Fairy Tale, “All seemed to sleep, the timid hare on form" - Scott.’, Oil on canvas, Christie’s, Victorian & British Impressionist Art, London, 2013 (lot 4).
Our reference: BRV1614

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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