Wardle, who was self-taught, began painting very young and almost certainly received advice from artists living in his Chelsea neighbourhood. In 1892 he and his wife moved to St John’s Wood in north London, mainly because it was near the zoo, where it was possible to sketch in all weathers. In the 1920’s Wardle seems to have travelled in west and central Africa, India and south-east Asia. Towards the end of his life he lived quietly in Goldhawk Road in London’s Shepherd’s Bush and died more or less forgotten in 1949.
It was around 1880 that he developed his own style in painting animals. His reputation rested on large mythological scenes combining figures and animals, such as Diana, in which the goddess is seen with her dogs, and Pan’s Flute, depicting the young faun charming animals such as leopards and rabbits, both were exhibited at the Royal Academy. At the same time he was showing entirely naturalistic paintings of animals. He painted in a studio surrounded by sketches, skeletons and small-scale models.
While his paintings of wild animals were much praised by the critics, his most financially successful works were his portraits of dogs, reproduced on a range of items including tobacco and cigarette packets, postcards, playing cards, calendars and chocolate boxes. Wardle was only 16 when his painting Study of Cattle on the Banks of the Thames was accepted by the Royal Academy, London, where he exhibited until 1938. In 1880 he sent two other paintings to the winter exhibition of the Society of British Artists at Suffolk Street.
In 1910 he figures in the catalogue of the Liverpool Exhibition. He was elected member of the Pastel Society in 1911.
Works can be found in many museums and art galleries.