Walter Taylor

Boodle’s Club

c.1914–5

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Walter Taylor 1860–1943
Medium
Charcoal and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 478 x 404 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 1923
Reference
N03716

Catalogue entry

Entry

Boodle’s Club in St James’s, London, is a non-political gentlemen’s club founded in 1762 which has been housed at 28 St James’s Street since 1783.1 The thoroughfare of St James’s Street connects Piccadilly at the north end and the royal residence of St James’s Palace at the south, and is the address of a number of private clubs including Brooks’, the Carlton Club, the Devonshire Club and White’s. Clubs such as these, particularly popular in the nineteenth century, provided a congenial venue for like-minded, upper class gentlemen to meet, socialise, eat, drink, gamble and play billiards. Membership then, as now, was strictly limited and only achieved through election. Women were not permitted to join.
It is likely that the exclusive, moneyed and establishment world of Boodle’s would have been complete anathema to the majority of the Camden Town Group members, who were largely from middle class backgrounds and, as young artists, struggled to make enough money to live. Their paintings focus on the lives of London’s working class population, shown in unpretentious lodgings and humble back streets. The sort of gentleman who would have been admitted to Boodle’s is convincingly, if simply, depicted in the watercolour by the figure just emerging from the entrance on the left. His top hat and cane are indicative of wealth and a certain conventional sobriety. As representatives of the avant-garde in London, even those members of the Camden Town circle who came from privileged backgrounds, such as Robert Bevan, would not have been interested in the conservative, established order of a gentlemen’s club. Walter Taylor was not a member of the Camden Town Group, but he frequented Fitzroy Street meetings and was later elected to membership of the London Group. His father was a successful tobacco manufacturer and Taylor himself was a man of considerable inherited wealth who, as well as living in Brighton, maintained a house in Oxford Square, off Hyde Park in London. Although he did not belong to a gentlemen’s club, Taylor’s comfortable lifestyle and bachelor-like existence suggest a certain affinity with that culture. Taylor painted watercolours of other gentlemen’s clubs, including the Reform Club in Pall Mall,2 and White’s, also in St James’s Street, which he exhibited with the London Group in May 1921.3

Nicola Moorby
February 2004

Notes

1
Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (eds.), The London Encyclopaedia, London 1983, p.78.
2
Modern British and Irish Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Sotheby’s, London, 10 March 1993 (lot 171).
3
Fourteenth Exhibition of the London Group, Mansard Gallery, London, May 1921 (105 and 108).
4
W.J. Turner, ‘Walter Taylor’, in Water-colours by the Late Walter Taylor, exhibition catalogue, Leicester Galleries, London 1944, p.2.
5
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, undated [1913], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.62.
6
For more on Fox Pitt, see Tate N03994.
7
Wendy Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, Aldershot and Vermont 2000, p.208.
8
Ibid.
9
Spencer Gore, letter to John Doman Turner, undated, private collection, no.19.
10
Spencer Gore, letter to John Doman Turner, 15 May 1911, private collection, no.32.

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