Albert Chevallier Tayler

The letter

Oil on canvas: 15.5(h) x 19.8(w) in /

39.4(h) x 50.2(w) cm

Signed and dated lower left: A. CHEVALLIER TAYLER ‘88

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BM 21



Leytonstone 1862 – 1926 London


The letter


Signed and dated lower left: A. CHEVALLIER TAYLER ’88

Oil on canvas: 15 ½ x 19 ¾ in / 39.4 x 50.2 cm

Frame size: 22 ¾ x 27 in / 57.8 x 68.6 cm



Private collection, UK



By 1888, Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947) began to realize that the convivial Albert Chevallier Tayler, someone he described three years earlier as ‘the best friend I know’, had now found his métier. An early convert to the ‘square brush technique’, popularly associated with the work of Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929), Chevallier Tayler was, in his unsuccessful Royal Academy submission of 1885, ‘just La Thangue enough, but not too La Thangue’ according to Forbes.


The confidence that emerged three years later was the result of two factors. The first was an extended painting expedition with Blandford Fletcher (1858-1936) in 1886, when Chevallier Tayler left Newlyn to work in the villages of Berkshire. The second, arguably more significant experience was that of a trip to Venice, sponsored in 1887 by the dealer, Arthur Tooth. On this second trip, far from painting familiar tourist views of the bacino di San Marco, Chevallier Tayler produced a number of carefully conceived genre scenes such as the Venetian Vegetable Market, 1887. These revealed a mastery in the treatment of form and the manipulation of space, that came directly from Fletcher, filtered through Venetian genre painters such as Eugène de Blaas (1843-1932), Ettore Tito (1859-1941), and Chevallier Tayler’s British contemporary, Samuel Melton Fisher (1859-1939). Chevallier Tayler may well have heard of this international group from Frank Bramley (1857-1915) or William Logsdail (1859-1944), but his own direct experience was crucial. Back in Newlyn by February 1888, with the Academy success of Bless, O God, these gifts to our use, 1887 (unlocated) behind him, Forbes anticipated great things from his friend. 


Stagey composition and stiff treatment of the figures had been replaced by a suave naturalism. Chevallier Tayler’s interiors were now inhabited by gossiping girls sewing, preparing a wedding dress, or as in the present instance, seated alone at a writing bureau. One of the works from this sequence, possibly Tayler’s New English Art Club picture, A Council of Three, or the present example, particularly appealed to Forbes.


The letter comes exactly at the moment when the Newlyn painters rose to prominence as an identifiable school, following the purchase of Bramley’s A Hopeless Dawn by the Chantrey Trustees. Within a year, ‘Newlyn’ was being clearly identified as the location of some of the most advanced painting in Britain and referring specifically to works of the present type, Alice Meynell wrote that, ‘it is in their studies of interiors no less than in their open air work that the [painters of the] Newlyn School prove their love of truth’. Bless, O God, these gifts…she considered, was ‘removed from the fictions of the studio’ and such paintings showed ‘all the delicate differences and subtle distances of the grey day on the surfaces of this room’ (Alice Meynell, Newlyn, The Art Journal, 1889, p. 102). Meynell might almost invoke the Dutch masters in praising such works.


Chevallier Tayler’s probity is clearly evident in the present work.  Closely related to A Council of Three, it focusses on the writing bureau in the corner of the room. Above the desk is a model of a fishing smack – one of those registered in Penzance and moored at the Gwavas Slip, at Newlyn. Beside this on the wall is an undecipherable print, and beyond that, a brown curtain covering the window. The girl, who concentrates on her writing or drawing, is one of Chevallier Tayler’s regular models, seen in The Yellow Ribbon and his Royal Academy picture, A Dress Rehearsal, 1888 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight) while the high-backed chair on which she sits, reappears in The House of Cards.


This formidable sequence marks Chevallier Tayler as one of the major talents in British painting of the 1880s, his success confirmed with The Departure of the Fishing Fleet, Boulogne, 1891 (Birmingham Art Gallery). When he ‘folded his sketching umbrella’ and stole silently ‘up to Kensington’ in 1895, it came as no surprise to Forbes, for Newlyn was losing ground to the ‘London Impressionists’ and Glasgow School painters. There is no doubt however, that for Chevallier Tayler, the year 1888 was a watershed and with paintings such as The letter, he achieved an exceptional lucidity that lifts late Victorian painting into direct comparison with that of Metsu and Terborch.


Professor Kenneth McConkey










A. Chevallier Tayler, A Dress Rehearsal, 1888                                     A. Chevallier Taylor, The Quiet Hour

Oil on canvas: 77.5 x 107.5                                                                  Oil on canvas: 122 x 146 cm

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Wirral                                                           Alfred East Art Gallery                                                                       






Leytonstone 1862 – 1926 London


Alexander Chevalier Tayler was born at Leytonstone in Essex, the son of a solicitor. He won a scholarship to the Slade School of Art in 1879, and later studied in Paris where he attended the ateliers of Jean-Paul Laurens and Carolus-Duran.


In 1884 Tayler arrived in Newlyn, where he was to stay intermittently until 1895. There he stayed at Bellevue where Alexander Stanhope Forbes and Blandford Fletcher were also living. He also travelled abroad to paint, including a visit to Venice sponsored by Arthur Tooth in 1887, and a trip to Boulogne in 1890, which resulted in his picture La Vie Boulonnaise being exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891.


Tayler was greatly affected by his religious convictions and converted to Roman Catholicism circa 1887.  There followed a phase of specifically Roman Catholic subjects, such as The Last Blessing, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1890. According to Norman Garstin, he moved to London circa 1895, ‘having folded up his sketching umbrella and silently stolen up to Kensington’. By this date he had renounced his interest in plein-air naturalism, and up until his death he concentrated mainly on scenes of fashionable society life, dinner parties and drawing-rooms.


He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1904 and became a full member in 1910.   He won a medal at the Paris Salon in 1891, and was Honorary Secretary of the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists.



Modern BritishAlbert Chevallier Tayler