Dudley Hardy, RBA RI RMS ROI PS (1867-1922) Dudley Hardy was one of the leading graphic artists of the turn of the century, who had a strong influence on the following generation, through the strength of his poster designs, and other illustrations, and the force of his personality. A member of many exhibiting societies, he spearheaded the foundation of the London Sketch Club, in 1898, and was the life and soul of its activities, both artistic and social.
Dudley Hardy was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, on 15 January 1867, the third of eight children of the marine painter, Thomas Bush Hardy, and his first wife, Mary Ann Lovne. During his earliest years, his father was employed in the Sheffield Silver Assay Office.
In 1870, the Hardy family moved to London, and settled at 84 Regina Road, Upper Holloway. Thomas Bush Hardy took up a clerical position at the Inland Revenue at Somerset House, until he found that he could make a living painting marine subjects. By 1873, the Hardys were living at 42 Gordon Square, retaining it as an address until at least 1877.
By that year, and until 1880, they lived in Boulogne-sur-Mer, at the Villa de Wicardenne.
Dudley Hardy was educated in Boulogne and at the University College School, London. Having received early lessons in art from his father, he left for Düsseldorf at the age of 15, in about 1882, to study at the Kunstakademie under Hugo Crola, Heinrich Lauenstein and Andreas Müller. During his three months there, he was expelled and re-admitted, and then left of his own accord. Back in England, he worked in his father’s studio and with Abelardo Alvarez Calderón. He then went on to Antwerp to work under Charles Verlat.
By 1885, Hardy had returned to London, and moved into Danesmere, Lambolla Road, Belsize Park. He began his career by contributing illustrations to The Pictorial World and exhibiting paintings at the Society of British Artists (from 1885) and the Royal Academy of Arts (from 1886). Nevertheless, he spent the years 1888-89 studying in Paris, under Raphael Collin, Carl Rossi and Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, an experience that had a strong effect on him. This was partly as a result of his exposure to the graphic style of such artists as Jules Chéret, which would have a lasting influence on his posters and other illustrative works.
In 1888, Hardy painted Sans Asile, a large-scale oil that depicts huddled figures sleeping in Trafalgar Square. An icon of naturalism, it established his reputation by being reproduced and widely exhibited across Europe, beginning, in 1889, at the Paris Salon and ending, in 1893, at the Royal Society of British Artists (of which he had become a member in 1889). In contrast to this vein of painting, he produced The Moors in Spain (1892) and other colourful, exotic canvases, which were mainly the products of his imagination, though fuelled by visits to North Africa, including one with Frank Brangwyn to Tangier in 1893.
As a wide-ranging artist, Hardy became a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (1897), the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours (1898), the Royal Miniature Society, the Pastel Society and the Society of Twenty-Five Painters (1905), and also of the Savage Club and the Punch Bowl Club. However, it is probably his membership of the London Sketch Club that best defines his artistic identity, and his work as a graphic artist for which he is best remembered.
It was Hardy who led the rebellion of the younger members of the Langham Sketching Club against the older members, ostensibly over catering arrangements, which led to the foundation of the London Sketch Club in 1898. He then became Vice-President and, a year later, the second President. With his close friend, John Hassall, he led the group of poster artists within the club. He also taught at Hassall’s New Art School, at Stratford Studios in Kensington.
Hardy’s major achievements as a poster artist comprise two series of advertisements, those for Sidney Jones’ musical, A Gaiety Girl (1893) and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Savoy Operas. Their dynamic designs are emphasised by bold, flat colours outlined in black. He also illustrated a number of books, from Alice Werner’s The Humour of Holland (1894) to Rowland Strong’s Sensations of Paris (1912), and contributed to many periodicals, including The Illustrated London News (1889-94), The English Illustrated Magazine (1893-97) and Punch (1900-1902).
In 1899, Hardy married Mrs Lizzie Burnside (née Mulholland) of Toronto. Then a year after her death in 1906, he married Annie Morrison of Skye. Together they had one son and one daughter. He lived in Bedford Park and later at 25 Powis Square, where died of a heart seizure, brought on by overwork, on 11 August 1922.
His sister, Florence Hardy, was also an illustrator, and his brother, Frank, a sporting artist.
Further reading: Sarah Wimbush, ‘Hardy, Dudley (b Sheffield, Yorks, 15 Jan 1867; d London, 11 Aug 1922)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 45, pages 718-721