The illustrator, Herbert C Ahier, established himself before the First World War as a specialist in images of ships. After that war, he worked as a commercial artist, and occasional illustrator, for J M Dent & Sons, revealing a talent for a wider range of imagery. He extended this talent, in later life, in producing pleasing traditional landscape watercolours.
Herbert Ahier was born in Mile End, East London, on 23 December 1888. His father’s family had possibly settled there from Jersey. By 1901, he was living with his widowed grandmother, Eliza Phillipps Ahier (née Cross), at 38 Antill Road.
Nothing is known of Ahier’s education, artistic or otherwise.
However, by 1911, he was contributing illustrations, in watercolour, to periodicals that included The Gentlewoman. He developed a particular specialisation in images of ships, both modern and historic, and continued to produce these until the 1950s.
Having served as a private in the Middlesex Regiment during the First World War, Ahier married Dorothy Catt in Hastings, Sussex, in 1919. By then, he was working as a lithographer, probably for the publisher, J M Dent & Sons, and had joined the union known as the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers. Between the wars, he contributed illustrations to a number of Dent’s books, though produced more than were published. Those that did appear included a design for the dust jacket of Alan Sullivan’s Under the Northern Lights (1926).
By 1939, Ahier and his wife had settled at 74 Rowan Road, Streatham, South London, and this would remain his home for the remainder of his life. In that year, he described himself as ‘a retoucher and general commercial artist – photo engraver’. From that time, he produced landscape watercolours, though possibly purely for his own enjoyment, and there is no evidence that he exhibited them. His favourite sketching grounds included the Thames and his wife’s home county of Sussex. She died in 1952, but he lived on until 9 May 1976.