Brian Taylor (1935 – 2013)

Animalia & Drawings from the Gabo Studio

20 March – 1 May

Exhibition goes live 20 March, 10:00am
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We are delighted to present a remarkable body of sculpture and rare drawings from the renowned sculptor Brian Taylor. Born in 1935, Taylor was continually fascinated by human and animal forms and it is the latter that forms the focus of this exhibition. Joined by drawings from Naum Gabo’s studio, this collection is indicative of Taylor’s unparalleled observation of animated volume.

Brian Taylor spent his childhood in a working-class area of Surrey, fascinated by natural history and perpetually drawing. He entered the Slade School of Art in 1954 having spent time at Epsom and Ewell School of Art and Crafts and before that Cheam School of Art. During Taylor’s second year at the Slade Henry Moore was to visit a friend teaching at the school. Moore’s praise for Taylor’s independent vision marked a ‘turning point in the way his work was perceived by the school’. It is said that Taylor established an immediate rapport with Moore, saying that the ingenious sculptor was a “Yorkshire man who spoke to me directly”. One a living legend and the other a novice, the pair found companionship through their mutual interest in the formal power of early sculpture.

By the time Taylor graduated his prowess as a sculptor of the human figure was so impressive that he gained a covetable three-year scholarship to Rome. Italian art proved to be a revelation and Taylor was mesmerised by the city’s art collections, modern and ancient alike. He remained in Italy until the mid-sixties when the sound of swinging London persuaded him to return to the city. Back in London he began a distinguished career teaching at the Camberwell School of Art, thought he would not stay away from Italy for long.

‘Italy called him back in 1971, and he could not resist an impulse to visit the Serra di Burano. This alluring rural area, not far from Umbria, enabled him to study horses – in particular an unusually large and well-built animal strong enough to run even when pulling a very hefty cart. Although this pugnacious creature threatened to bite Taylor, he insisted on studying the mighty horse at close quarters. He cunningly distracted the animal by flinging wet clay onto its nose. And while the horse licked off this muddy substance, Taylor took detailed measurements of its head and body without suffering any assault at all.
As a result of these adroit manoeuvres, he was ready in 1972 to create the major bronze sculpture Burano Horse. Its title paid tribute to the countryside he relished in the seductive valley of Santa Maria di Burano, as well as the animal he had discovered there. Enchanted by his explorations of this terrain, while staying near the church of San Sepulchro with peasant farmers, Taylor made sure he returned to this compelling district time and again over a twenty-year period’.
Art Historian & Critic, Richard Cork

Taylor’s interest in sculpting animal form has pervaded his work ever since and lively oxen, stoic bulls or his lithe dog Lilie are rendered with the same frank, cleared eyed affection.

These are joined by a rare collection of drawings inspired by a period of time he spent in Naum Gabo’s studio in Connecticut. Taylor had made a series of drawings of the sunflowers that surrounded his summer house in Umbria, Italy, coupling a homage to Van Gogh – whom he also revered – with one of the most celebrated Russian artists of the 20th century.

Taylor only rarely exhibited his sculptures publicly since the early 1960s and they remain best known to a select circle of friends, patrons and enthusiasts. In 1998 Taylor was elected a member of the Society of Portrait Sculptors and the Royal Society of British Sculptors.