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In 1890, the year in which he produced the present work, Albert Chevallier Tayler received a commission from the Fine Art Society to visit Boulogne-sur-Mer, in order to paint the ceremony of the blessing of the sea. The best known result of the trip was The Departure of the Fishing Fleet, Boulogne, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891 as La Vie Boulonnaise, and bought by the private collector, Richard Payne, for presentation to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (where it still resides).
Given that The Dining Room was produced during the same period, it is at least possible that it represents lunch in a Boulonnaise restaurant or hotel dining room, and perhaps the hotel at which Tayler stayed. Certainly the artist beautifully captures a sense of light suggestive of a coastal location; it penetrates semi-transparent curtains, illuminates the whiteness of cloth and napkin, and reflects off the polished surfaces of china, glass and metal, the linoleum floor and even the shoes of the most prominent diner. At once precise and atmospheric, the work appears to emulate such French realist interiors as Gustave Caillebotte’s Le Dejeuner of 1876. Though much smaller than The Departure of the Fishing Fleet, Boulogne, it acts as a counterpart to it in encapsulating a clean, calm middle-class interior that is the very opposite of the bustling working-class quayside.