Memorial Exhibition for Brian Taylor, Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors and
Vice President of the Society of Portrait Sculptors
With guided tours daily between 12 - 2 pm
The figurative sculptor Brian Taylor was born in Sutton on 22 December 1935. He was educated at Epsom School of Art, where Richard, now Sir Richard Rogers, the architect was among his contemporaries. While there, still only 16, he was given his first exhibition at Zwemmer's gallery. He showed dramatically conceived linocuts, including "The four horsemen of the Apocalypse".
From 1954 to 1958 he studied at the Slade School of Art, where his teachers included Reg Butler and F E McWilliams. Paul de Monchaux, Kim Lim, Michael Sandle and Yolanda Sonnabend were fellow students. At the Slade, Brian worked consistently from close oberservation of life, developing an intuitive and unconventionally expressive response to what he saw. Henry Moore's praise for Brian’s independent vision marked a turning point in the way his work was perceived by the school. In 1956 he carried off most of the student prizes and, at the end of his final year, was awarded a first class Diploma in Fine Art and a Post-Graduate Scholarship. In 1958 he received the Rome Scholarship. His experience in Rome was the most formative of his career. As he said, he became "completely immersed in late Archaic Greek and Etruscan sculpture and admired greatly the sculpture of Medardo Rosso".
In his first year at the British Academy in Rome he met Anthony Blunt, Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, who recognised Brian’s aspirations, encouraging him with the gift of a block of travertine stone. From this he carved his first standing figure. In 1960 he was given a one-person sculpture exhibition at the Babuinetta Gallery in Rome where he showed maquettes of the figure carved from travertine, a greyhound dog and portraits. At the conclusion of his three-year scholarship Brian stayed on in Rome working as an assistant in the studio of Emilio Greco, while continuing to strengthen his own ideas. He was given a further solo show at the Via dell Corso Gallery in 1962.
In 1965, Taylor returned to Britain and took up a position in a new sculpture department at Camberwell School of Art, south London. He invited his Slade contemporary, Paul de Monchaux, to be head. Taylor preferred to be deputy head of sculpture; he taught at the School until 1984.
During this period, he explored themes of mental instability in his work. The Dance of Lily Pier, a study of a distressed and homeless individual, is a strong example of this. Characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland also provided him with inspiration at this time.
In 1971, Taylor visited the beautiful Serra di Burano, a mountain range in Italy, whilst staying in the nearby village of Gubbio. It was here that he came across a rare breed of giant horse and was so impressed by its sheer size and form he decided to make a life-size model of the animal. This culminated in his 1972 monumental bronze, titled Burano Horse. Taylor returned to Gubbio every summer thereafter to draw the landscape and make further sculptures of local animals, including a bull, cows and calves.
The Death Cart was to be Taylor’s unfinished last work. Having become interested in darker themes in later life, the piece was informed by Taylor’s extensive readings about the Holocaust. The piece was intended to be a sculpture of a number of figures – both people and animals – on a procession to Death, led by a cart. No sketches were made of the piece (he had carried the concept around in his head for some fifteen years) but Taylor had begun working on it, making a number of maquettes for the figures and the wheels of the cart.
In 1998, Taylor was elected a member of the Society of Portrait Sculptors and the Royal British Society of Sculptors. This allowed him greater exhibiting opportunities and the chance to engage with many younger sculptors, who were often admirers of his work. In 2010, he was elected as Vice Principal of the Society of Portrait Sculptors, a significant tribute from his fellow members. Brian Taylor died 21 March 2013.
Information provided by Dennis Wardleworth in his 2013 Brian Taylor memorial essay.
The catalogue A Consistent Vision. Brian Taylor FRBS FSPS 1935-2013 is available online.