Frederick Bourchier Taylor

Canadian artist Frederick Bourchier Taylor (1906–1987), was a man of many interests and many talents. He was born in Ottawa and mostly raised there; living briefly in London, England from 1916 to 1918 after his father was transferred there during the First World War. Upon returning to Ottawa, he graduated from Lisgar Collegiate in 1918. He became a student of McGill University in 1925 after his parents asserted that he must complete university before embarking on any sort of artistic career. While at McGill, Taylor studied architecture and developed a keen interest in skiing and boxing. As a testament to Taylor’s many talents, in 1927 he was awarded McGill’s Anglin Norcross Prize for drawing, and also became the university’s heavyweight boxing champion.

After graduating in 1930, Taylor studied, exhibited and worked in Britain as well as Canada, finally settling in Montreal by 1937. During this period, he earned a living by teaching drawing at the McGill School of Architecture and painting portraits.

After war broke out in 1939, Taylor began an unsuccessful lobbying campaign in an attempt to get the Canadian Government to put into place an officially sanctioned war-art program. Undeterred by the Government’s refusal, Taylor used his artistic talent as well as family connections (his brother was Canadian businessman and millionaire E.P. Taylor) to gain access to and document Canadian Pacific Railway′s Angus Shops in Montreal, along with several Canadian shipyards and other Canadian war industry factories.

Colour print showing ship workers unloading cargo, using nets and skids, on a very crowded dock with a ship in the background.

Empire Builders by Frederick Taylor for the Empire Marketing Board (MIKAN 2897675)

During this period, Taylor was able to paint over 200 works that document the diverse, strenuous, and often unrecognized or under-appreciated work done by Canada’s factory workers. Library and Archives Canada has some of these works in its art collection. These paintings consist of 19 small-sized studies along with eight larger finished works documenting factory workers in the fur and garment industry of Montreal during the 1940s. In these works, Taylor has used a muted palette of industrial greens, browns and greys. Taylor has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to capture not only the industrial atmosphere and harsh fluorescent factory lighting, but also the intense look of concentration on the faces of the workers.

Taylor continued his artistic career after the War, exhibiting and participating in shows mostly in Quebec and Ontario. In 1960, he moved to Mexico where he tried his hand at sculpture and silk screening. Frederick Taylor died by suicide in Mexico, in 1987.

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