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CECIL ALDIN: THE ART OF BLACK BEAUTY Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Bridewell Alley, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1AQ. Tel: 01603 629127. Runs until Saturday 25th November.

out to write a book, highlighting the heart-breaking way in which horses were treated. What made Black Beauty stand out was that the book was written from the viewpoint of the horse, growing from colt to full-grown beast, experiencing good homes and bad. Animal activists used the book to promote improvements in horse care and the abolition of practices like the bearing rein, as well as the creation of horse charities. To celebrate the first publication of Black Beauty, the Bridewell in Norwich has a very special exhibition of illustrations by Cecil Aldin, running until November. Norwich-based company, Jarrold & Sons, published the first edition of Black Beauty in 1877, and decided to bring out a new edition in 1910, commissioning 18 watercolour illustrations from a renowned artist named Cecil Aldin. Aldin’s previous work had already included illustrations for Dickens and Rudyard Kipling novels. He was paid £189 – a massive sum for the period.


After publication, the original watercolours were filed away, and lay forgotten for many years. Then in 1982, the Jarrold family found them in a box. They were framed and exhibited, but because they are watercolours, they can only be displayed for short periods to preserve the vibrant colours. are illustrations from Anna Sewell’s epoch-making novel, Black Beauty, are on display in Norwich, showing why this book has become such a classic.

Few people would have imagined the scale of the impact that Black Beauty had when first published 140 years ago. Not only did it become a much-loved classic which has never been out of print, it has also transformed the way society deals with horses. Victorian England was a harsh, unforgiving place for horses. London alone had 300,000 working horses – and few of them lived beyond four years. Horrified by what she discovered, Norfolk-born Anna Sewell set

The artwork is stunning. Aldin loved horses just as much as he loved dogs, and this is clearly reflected in his work. He beautifully captured the way in which horses move, showing them pulling carts, jumping and running. You can truly sense the sadness of Black Beauty in the final scenes amid the London streets. It contrasts dramatically with the idyllic scene of the young colt standing beside his mother, which opens the novel. In addition to the illustrations, visitors can see a special model of Black Beauty in the museum’s courtyard. There are also several different editions of the book on display, including a rare example signed by the author as a gift for her niece.

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Norfolk on My Mind - Autumn 2017  
Norfolk on My Mind - Autumn 2017  

The Autumn 2017 edition of Norfolk on My Mind Magazine. Cover all of North Norfolk, including Holt, Burnham Market, Sherringham, Cromer, Fak...