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Illustration Art, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers, Set of 6 Antique Paintings by Aylott, 1920s

J.M. Aylott (active 1920s)
James Mahoney (1810-79) (after)
Phiz [Hablot Knight Browne] (1815-1882) (after)
Scenes from Dickens’ Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers
English [?]: c. 1926-28
Oil on panel paintings
11 x 17 inches, image, average approximate
14.5 x 20.5 inches, overall, average approximate

A uniform set of six framed paintings of scenes from Charles Dickens’ novels The Adventures of Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers. The artist, J.M. Aylott, painted them in the 1920s based on the original 19th-century black-and-white line book illustrations by James Mahoney and by Phiz, the pseudonym for Hablot Knight Browne.  Aylott added rich color and more fully realized settings for his paintings than are present in Mahoney and Phiz’s originals, which were published in 1871 and 1874 respectively. Together they are a charming reimagination of the original Dicken’s stories as interpreted in the 1920s.

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J.M. Aylott signed and dated three of the six offered paintings. Little is known about him, though his talent as a painter is evident in the offered set of paintings, with their skillful draftsmanship following the original book illustrations, the expert addition of color, and the animated expressions on the subjects that brings them to life. One other extant example of an Aylott rendition of a Charles Dickens scene — in the same format and style — is known.


The original titles of Mahoney’s and Phiz’s illustrations that inspired these paintings are given in boldface below, with short descriptions of the scenes they depict. Those three that are signed and dated by Aylott are indicated as well.

Paintings 1, 2, 3: The Adventures of Oliver Twist

[Uncaptioned] (“Please sir, I want some more.”)  A famous scene in the book that was the headpiece for Chapter One of the Household Edition of The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1871).  A desperately hungry Oliver asks the master of the workhouse for a second helping of gruel.

Hullo, my covey! What’s the row?
Oliver’s first encounter with Jack Dawkins, a streetwise slightly older boy whose skill as a pickpocket has earned him the nickname “The Artful Dodger.”
Signed and dated lower right: J.M. Aylott 28.

Sikes, with Oliver’s hand still in his, softly approached the low porch.
Oliver being brought under cover of darkness to help rob a mansion by the thief Bill Sikes. It is clear by the way Sikes’ meaty hand grasps Oliver’s frail wrist that Oliver is being forced to participate.

Paintings 4, 5, 6: The Pickwick Papers

“I say insolent familiarity, Sir,” said Mr. Pickwick, turning upon Fogg with a fierceness of gesture which caused that person to retreat towards the door with great expedition.
Pickwick confronts two scurrilous lawyers, Dodson and Fogg, who are representing a client suing Pickwick.

With this, the speaker snatched the article of dress from Mr. Pickwick’s head.
Pickwick is awakened by a rowdy group of drunks during his first night as a prisoner of the Fleet.
Signed and dated lower right: J.M. Aylott 26.

“My dear,” said Mr. Pickwick, looking over the wall, and catching sight of Arabella on the other side. “Don’t be frightened, my dear, ’tis only me.”
A comical scene where Pickwick stands on his valet’s shoulders in an attempt to converse with Arabella Allen over the garden wall.
Signed lower right: J.M. Aylott.

Charles Dickens was one of the major and most beloved English novelists in the 19th century, whose many novels have become classics of English literature. His stories were originally written as serials for periodicals, but later published as books in numerous editions from the 19th century to the present day. Aylott’s sources were illustrated volumes published in the 1870s. For The Adventures of Oliver Twist, he worked from the 1871 Household Edition, in which James Mahoney reinterpreted the original illustrations published in 1838 by George Cruikshank (1792-1878). For The Pickwick Papers, he worked from the 1874 Household Edition, illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne, who went by the moniker “Phiz.” The Household Edition of Charles Dickens’ works were the first editions to be published after Dickens’ death in 1870, and consisted of 22 volumes issued between 1871 and 1879 by the London firm of Chapman and Hall in England and by Harper and Brothers in North America.

James Mahoney was an Anglo-Irish artist. Born in Ireland, he worked there as a graphic artist until 1859. There he was known for his images of the Irish Famine published during the 1840s in The Illustrated London News. In 1859 he moved to London where he exhibited watercolors at the Royal Academy, and worked as an illustrator of books and magazines, including continuing to work for The Illustrated London News. He was also one of the illustrators the worked on the Household Edition of Charles Dickens’ works, the first edition to be published after Dickens’ death in 1870.

Hablot Knight Browne was a British illustrator, etcher and wood engraver. His ability to create the plates for his own drawings enabled him to have greater control over the final product than illustrators who handed off their drawings to others to engrave. He produced illustrations for a number of books during the Victorian era, including Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? (1864) and Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1862), and the Household Edition of The Pickwick Papers (1874).

Condition:  Oil paintings on wood panel, as issued. Each generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling, Some light warping to wood boards. A few paintings with minor shrinkage cracks in the wood, minor scattered bookworm holes, and/or minor abrasions neatly restored. Each more recently uniformly framed to same outer dimensions having the usual wear and handling to the frames. Three of the six paintings signed and dated by the artist Aylott.


Allingham, Philip V. “James Mahoney.” VictorianWeb. 1 September 2010. (2 February 2021).

Allingham, Philip V. “James Mahoney’s Illustrations for Dickens’s Adventures of Oliver Twist.” 20 June 2016. (2 February 2021).

Allingham, Philip V. “Pickwick Papers” VictorianWeb. 3 June 2019. (2 February 2021).

Allingham, Philip V. and Chris Louttit. “The Illustrators of the Household Edition of the Works of Charles Dickens.” VictorianWeb. 3 June 2019. (2 February 2021).

Allingham, Philip V. and George P. Landow. “‘Phiz’ — artist, wood-engraver, etcher and printer — and the new reproductive processes.” 17 May 2017. Victorian Web. (2 February 2021).

Additional information


20th Century