Albert Chevallier Tayler, RBA RBC ROI NEAC (1862-1925)
Albert Chevallier Tayler painted a variety of figure subjects, both contemporary and historical. He became best known for his interior scenes, including dinner parties and domestic celebrations, and was admired for the high finish of his canvases. Absorbing Continental influences through study in Paris, he established himself as a member of the Newlyn School by producing social realist scenes en plein air. Then, following his conversion to Catholicism in 1887, and his move to London in 1895, he focussed increasingly on religious imagery, middle class settings and portraiture. Albert Chevallier Tayler was born in Leytonstone, Essex, on 5 April 1862, the seventh of eight children of the solicitor, William Moseley Tayler, and his wife, Elizabeth Sarah (née Warren). He was educated at All Saints’ Grammar School, Bloxham, Oxfordshire, and began to study art in London at Heatherley’s School of Art.
In 1879, he won a three-year scholarship to the Slade School of Art, where he was taught by Alphonse Legros. Moving to Paris, he studied for a year in the atelier of the history painter, Jean-Paul Laurens, alongside other former students of the Slade, including Thomas Cooper Gotch, George Percy Jacomb-Hood and Henry Scott Tuke. He then studied for a further year in the atelier of the celebrated portrait painter, Carolus-Duran, alongside Norman Garstin.
In September 1884, Tayler joined the colony of artists based in the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn, and lived there intermittently for over a decade. He settled at Belle Vue House (now called Boase Castle House), where he shared lodgings with Stanhope Forbes and William Blandford Fletcher. Other Newlyn friends included Garstin, Tuke and Gotch. (He would live with Gotch at The Malt House before moving to Parc Terrace). An avid cricketer, who began painting cricketing subjects in 1886, he played in the annual Newlyn vs St Ives artists’ cricket match, and would later become a member of the Artists’ Cricket Club.
In 1884, Tayler began to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts, the most established exhibiting society of the day (and would continue to do so until his death). However, in 1885, he became a founder member of the New English Art Club, as a progressive alternative to the academy, which could promote the interests of the Newlyn painters, among others. Exhibiting widely, he also became a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Oils (1890), the Art Workers’ Guild (1905-7), the Royal Society of British Artists (1908) and the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists (of which he became the Honorary Secretary). He showed frequently at major Parisian exhibitions, including the Salon, which awarded him a 2nd class medal in 1891.
Possibly prompted by the conversion of his youngest sibling, Mary, Tayler became a Roman Catholic in 1887, and began to concentrate on religious imagery. Then from 1895, when he moved to London and settled at 23 Orsett Terrace, Bayswater, he relaxed into a more genteel, urban lifestyle, and produced a greater number of scenes of middle class life. However, in that year, he served on the provisional committee of artists during the opening of the Newlyn Art Gallery (and, from 1904, he would use it as a venue for the sale of his work). In 1896, he married Mrs Elizabeth Christiana Cotes, the widowed daughter of William Allingham, surgeon to the household of the Prince of Wales. Having had one daughter by her first husband, Charles Edward Henry Cotes MB, she would have two sons with Tayler.
By the turn of the century, Tayler had gained a significant reputation for his history paintings, among other subjects. These included the ambitious ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’: the Origin of the Order of the Garter, 1349, which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1901, and the large panel entitled The Vintners Company Entertaining the Five Kings, which was commissioned for the Royal Exchange, London, in 1903. At around the same time, he began to paint an increasing number of portraits, including one in 1906 of E W Hornung, author of the E J Raffles stories.
With a studio at 61 Carlton Hill, St John’s Wood – close to Lord’s cricket ground – Tayler was well placed to paint cricketing subjects. In 1905, he produced a set of 12 watercolours of famous, mostly aristocratic cricket players, and these were turned into lithographs by Lever Brothers for a campaign to advertise its soap products (as was an earlier painting, The Dress Rehearsal of 1888). In 1906, he painted the impressive Kent vs Lancashire at Canterbury, which was commissioned by Kent County Cricket Club in order to celebrate the club becoming county champions for the first time in that year. This has been described as the only painting ‘of a real cricket match in progress in which all the players on the fielding side are portrayed and are clearly recognisable’ (Jonathan Rice, Stories of Cricket’s Finest Painting: Kent v Lancashire 1906, Durrington: Pitch Publishing, 2019).
Tayler’s two sons were killed on active service in the First World War, the younger in the RAF in August 1918, and the older, an army officer, in the Dvina relief force in north Russia in 1919. Tayler received the commission for the Dvina relief force memorial painting, a triptych that portrays a memorial service. Unveiled at the Crystal Palace in 1921, it is now in the collections of the Imperial War Museums. His later portraits, include those of Admiral Earl Beatty and Field-Marshal Earl Haig.
Tayler died at home on 20 December 1925, and was buried at St Mary’s Roman Catholic cemetery, Kensal Green.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Imperial War Museums; and the Alfred East Art Gallery (Kettering) and the Penlee House Gallery & Museum (Penzance).
Further reading: Anne Anderson, ‘Tayler, Albert Chevallier (1862-1925)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2011, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/101045