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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Sir Robert Taylor (1714–1788)

Son of the City of London mason and sculptor, Robert Taylor, he was apprenticed to Henry Cheere. On becoming free he went to study in Rome, returning to England when his father died in 1742. In 1744 Taylor was commissioned to sculpt the monument for Westminster Abbey to Captain James Cornewall, the first such monument for which funds were voted in Parliament. In the same year he won the competition for the pediment of the Mansion House in the City. The pediment was completed in 1745. Taylor also produced many elegant church monuments, often including portrait busts and medallions. From the late 1740s he turned his attention increasingly to architecture, in which he built up an extensive practice. His most ambitious work was at the Bank of England, for which he created new buildings between 1765 and 1787. Little of this work survives. Taylor designed predominantly for City patrons, providing them with City offices, town houses, suburban villas and country houses. He acted as surveyor to several London estates, and held a variety of posts in the Office of Works. In 1783 he was knighted on his election as Sheriff of London. He left a considerable fortune to the University of Oxford, to found the Taylorian Institution, whose object was to promote the teaching of European languages. Taylor’s architecture marks a significant stage in the evolution from Palladianism to neo-classicism, but his drawings for chimneypieces, a volume of which is housed at the Taylorian, some of his church monuments, and the Lord Mayor of London’s coach, which he designed in 1757, are light and capricious rococo conceptions.

Bibliography (updated 2024): The Grove Dictionary of Art, Macmillan, London, 1996 (Roger White); J. Harris and M. Baker, ‘Taylor, Sir Robert’, ODNB, (2004), 2013; I. Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009, pp. 1224–27; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. xix, xx, 10, 26–28, 239–42, 301.

Philip Ward-Jackson, 2003