Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 680,000 GBP
signed and dated l.l.: A. CHEVALLIER-TAYLER 1907
oil on canvas
45 by 90 in.
Commissioned by Kent County Cricket Club in 1906
Albert Chevallier Tayler’s painting of the cricket match between Kent and Lancashire at Canterbury in 1906 is cherished by many connoisseurs, some of whom regard it as the ultimate example of this genre. Cricket has inspired multitudes of artistic offerings across several centuries, from Gravelot, Rowlandson and Hayman through to the eager modern artists, some of them cricketers themselves, who set up easels just beyond the boundary.
This particular oil, expansive and delicately worked, is pre-eminent among vintage pictures. It ranks with or beyond the Drummond/Basebe 1849 panorama of Sussex versus Kent at Brighton, the similarly static Dickinson tableaux of prominent 1890s players at Lord’s, and the captivating assembly of notable people and Test cricketers in action at Lord’s in the somewhat overwhelming, semi-fictitious Barrable/Ponsonby Staples painting of 1887 (FIG 1.)
The special nature of Chevallier Tayler’s Canterbury painting stems in part from the fact that here we have identifiable players in credible poses on the field of play, several of them household names. The prevailing vogue had been to depict individuals in solo portraiture or to generalise the pursuit, the game of cricket incidental to the attempt to enchant by means of the rural setting itself. From aristocrat to village cricketer, from veteran to boy (or girl), the subjects, if identifiable at all, stood alone or in small groups. No less an artist than J.M.W.Turner chose to include distant diminutive cricketing figures in several of his works. The grand action picture, however, was awaiting its day: awaiting Chevallier Tayler.
From the earliest one known (“Lumpy” Stevens by itinerant portraitist Almond, c.1783) there have been classic cricketer portraits and full-lengths by such as Archibald Stuart Wortley (of W.G.Grace, FIG 2.) and John Collier (A.N.Hornby), as well as a number of delectable watercolours by “Felix” (Nicholas Wanostrocht), and valued works by George Frederick Watts. There have been highly attractive broader scenes from the brushes of Camille Pissarro (Cricket on Hampton Court Green), Fred Batson (Playing Out Time in an Awkward Light), John Robertson Reid (A Country Cricket Match, FIG 3.), and Ernest Prater (On the Village Greens of Merrie England). But the cricketers in works such as these have been patently incidental or they remain anonymous simply because they were not famous.
Chevallier Tayler was commissioned to paint the Canterbury scene after the idea came to Kent County Cricket Club’s chairman, the legendary Lord Harris, who offered the suggestion during his speech at the celebratory dinner at London’s Hotel Cecil on 11 October 1906. It was formally approved by the gentlemen of the club’s main committee at their meeting in December. Kent was jubilant at its team having become county champions for the first time, and this large (45 by 90 in.) panoramic work was seen as the perfect means of marking the success. The artist was offered 200 guineas (£210), with the possibility of a further 150 guineas to be earned from the sale of an edition of prints. Late in 1907, the painting completed, one-hundred-and-ninety-two photogravures were produced, signed by the artist and Lord Harris, and the principal fee was thus covered.
So great was interest in this masterly painting that requests were made for it to be exhibited elsewhere, and in 1908 it was shown at one of Kent’s other grounds, the Rectory Field, Blackheath, and some time later also at Lord’s. With two other editions of prints having been taken from it in modern times (by Wisden Cricket Monthly and by Kent County Cricket Club) and reproductions on Australian biscuit tins and on the cover of a French educational book, the painting has been an enduring treasure even beyond the pride of Kent County Cricket Club members and visitors to the St Lawrence ground, Canterbury.
Albert (“Alexander” or “Chev”) Chevallier Tayler was born in Leytonstone on 5 April 1862, the youngest of seven sons of a solicitor, William Moseley Tayler. After enduring the rigours of early education as a boarder at Bloxham School, Oxfordshire, where he was also known as “Bertie”, and after studies at Heatherleys and the Royal Academy School, he undertook a three-year scholarship at the Slade School of Art. He was a keen if not exceptional cricketer, later playing in Authors v Artists matches alongside such other luminaries as Arthur Conan Doyle, J.R.Reid, F.C.Batson, P.G.Wodehouse, E.W.Hornung, G.Hillyard Swinstead, E.V.Lucas, and J.M.Barrie. He had been deeply gratified by his election to membership of the Artists Cricket Club, and enthusiastically partook of the annual dinners at Pagani’s in Great Portland Street. Tayler’s studies had taken him to France, where he was influenced by the Impressionists and studied under Jean-Paul Laurens and Carlos Duran, winning the Second-Class Paris Salon 1891 Hors Concours prize. A founder member, with Henry Scott Tuke, of The Newlyn School, Tayler (several of whose brothers had found a new life in South Africa) lived in that Cornish seaboard village for twelve years from 1885. His close friend Stanhope Forbes was there too, and they endeavoured to popularise the radical plein air movement. An early cricket work of Tayler’s was a small oil (8 ½ by 11 ½ in.) of the Eton v Harrow match at Lord’s in 1886 (FIG 4.), though it is little more than a blurred-focus view of the spectators by the boundary, with one young fieldsman in view. The artist gave this picture to MCC. It is also distinctly possible that the celebrated unsigned portrait of W.G.Grace, housed at the National Portrait Gallery, is by Chevallier Tayler. A “burly-looking gentleman, the beau ideal of a country squire”, whose studio in Carlton Hill, St John’s Wood, was close to Lord’s cricket ground, Tayler developed a preference for Romantic themes depicted with realism. Gordon Phillips’s conclusion after lengthy study of Tayler’s life and works was that “running throughout his work is a particular chastity, a repulsion to painting unclad flesh”. On the other hand: “obviously working to commission, in 1903 he executed a panel at the Royal Exchange in London representing The Vintners Company entertaining the Five Kings (England, France, Scotland, Denmark and Cyprus), a truly Bacchanalian feast, a stark contrast to his normally pious or quiet domestic scenes”. By the peak of his career Chevallier Tayler’s reputation was supported by exhibitions at the Fine Art Society, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, and the Royal Academy. In 1906, when the Canterbury commission came his way, he had just completed his impressions in crayon of The Empire’s Cricketers, based – though without any contemporary announcement to that effect – on George Beldam’s pioneering action photographs, most shot during the summer of 1905, when Joe Darling’s Australians were in England (losing the Ashes series, just as Ricky Ponting’s side memorably did precisely 100 years later). While six-thousand sets of the forty-eight pictures were issued for sale four at a time at a shilling apiece, the originals were exhibited at 148 New Bond Street. While critical acclaim was subdued at the time, complete sets in the original protective folders and with a page apiece bearing extended captions are today keenly sought after, as is the Sniders & Abrahams Australian cigarette-card issue based on the drawings. In 1896 Tayler had married Mrs Elizabeth Cotes, daughter of a surgeon to the household of the Prince of Wales. Tragedy was to strike in later years when both their sons were killed in the Great War. On 20 December 1925, the artist, by now living in Orsett Terrace, Hyde Park, died from acute bronchitis. He was buried in St Mary’s Cemetery, Kensal Green. Chevallier Tayler, described in his old school’s magazine as “a most delightful personality”, painted country scenes, religious, classical and military subjects (including portraits of Field Marshal Lord Haig and Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty), the stirring and the sentimental, but is today most widely remembered for his depictions of cricketers, and chiefly for this stunning view of a famous match at Canterbury.
KENT V LANCASHIRE - THE CRICKET MATCH
As is so often the case, county champions-to-be suffered an early defeat or two as the season got under way, which was temporarily to blot from view their eventual thrilling triumph. Kent, who had never been champions, lost two, drew one and won only against Sussex in their first four Championship matches of 1906. Then a momentum began to build, to the point where there was feverish anticipation as Lancashire came to play them in Canterbury week in August. Kent had just overthrown Surrey, the favourites, at Blackheath, where for the visitors the formidable Tom Hayward had scored his 12th century of the season to give Surrey a substantial first-innings lead. But Kent’s top-flight attack of Fielder, Blythe and Mason bowled Kent to comfortable victory, rolling over the Browncaps for 80. Now, at Canterbury, Sussex were crushed by an innings as Burnup, Blaker and Marsham posted hundreds and Fielder and Blythe were irresistible again. The second match of the Week began on Thursday, 9 August 1906. The hop county’s momentum was maintained. Having been overthrown by Lancashire by 10 wickets at Old Trafford two months previously, Kent now batted powerfully, scoring 409 for three on the first day, and finishing with 479. Hutchings stroked a beautiful career-highest 176 in as many minutes; Burnup made 94; Mason 88 (in a hurricane double-century partnership with Hutchings); Seymour 50. If it was thought that Lancashire would now match Kent run for run, shocks and delights were in store, for Fielder and Blythe bowled them out for 169, and then for even fewer in the follow-on as Kent seized the match by an innings and 195 runs. This time Fielder, swift as the wind, led Kent’s victory charge with seven wickets, Seymour’s diving slip catch to dispose of Tyldesley the day’s individual highlight. Reggie Spooner, one of the principal Lancashire batsmen hallowed in Neville Cardus’s golden prose, made his second duck of the match, while another of Cardus’s idols, Archie MacLaren, managed to top-score with 39, which included an imperious drive into the crowd that caused an elderly spectator to be raced to hospital with a head wound. It was Kent’s 11th victory of the summer, and they surged to five more in the remaining five matches. After Yorkshire slipped up at Bristol in their penultimate match, losing to Gloucestershire by a solitary run, Kent needed only to avoid defeat in their final match, against Hampshire at Bournemouth, if they were to become champions, and they duly sealed their triumph by scoring 610 (Burnup 179, Hutchings 124, Mason 73). Colin Blythe, who had missed seven matches because of a damaged finger, secured 12 wickets in the match. Chevallier Tayler’s painting, fixed on a moment before lunch on the second day of the Lancashire match – Friday, 10 August 1906, with a ground attendance of over seven thousand – succeeds in assembling a large group of participants in vivid detail and with a pleasing balance of sunlight and light shadow. It shows Blythe bowling to Tyldesley as Kent moved towards their comfortable victory, the sixth in their string of 11 consecutive wins to the end of that summer. The fairly new pavilion at the Nackington Road end of the St Lawrence ground is the dominant structure behind the bowler, Kent flag aflutter. To the right, the tower of Bell Harry of Canterbury Cathedral is visible in the distance. Elsewhere the Union flag is caught by the breeze, symbolising the innate pride and confidence of yet another generation of Englishmen in the Edwardian days of Empire. (All twenty two players in the match, apart from Lancashire’s Dr Poidevin, from Sydney, were English-born.)
Kent’s pride as champions was not to be short-lived. Further strengthened by the maturing of Frank Woolley, the county went on to win the Championship again in 1909, 1910 and 1913 before the ghastly events of 1914-18 shut off cricket’s Golden Age.
The figures depicted are (from the left): Humphreys at silly mid-on; Dillon in the distance in front of the sightscreen; non-striking batsman Findlay (see note below); umpire Atfield; bowler Blythe; batsman on strike Tyldesley; Blaker at mid-off; wicketkeeper Huish; Hutchings on the boundary at deep extra cover; Marsham at cover; Fielder at silly point; Mason at first slip; Burnup at point; Seymour at gully.
KENT (in batting order: career first-class figures shown)
Edward William “Ted” Dillon (amateur) b.February 15, 1881 in Penge, Kent; d.April 20, 1941 in Totteridge, Herts: 223 matches for Kent 1900-23, captain 1909-13, Oxford Blue, England rugby.
11006 runs at 28.29 HS 143 15 centuries 213c 74 wickets at 32.78 BB 4-11
Cuthbert James “Pinky” Burnup (amateur) b.November 21, 1875 in Blackheath, Kent; d.April 5, 1960 in North End, Middx: 157 matches for Kent 1896-1907, captain 1903, Cambridge Blue, England football
13614 runs at 36.79 HS 200 26 centuries 107c 98 wickets at 32.42 BB 6-36
James “Jim” Seymour (professional) b.October 25, 1879 in West Hoathly, Sussex; d.September 30, 1930 in Marden, Kent: 536 matches for Kent 1902-26
27237 runs at 32.08 HS 218* 53 centuries 675c 17 wickets at 47.35 BB 4-62
Kenneth Lotherington Hutchings (amateur) b.December 7, 1882 in Southborough, Kent; d.September 3, 1916 in Ginchy, France: 163 matches for Kent 1902-12; 7 Tests: 341 runs at 28.41 HS 12610054
runs at 33.62 HS 176 22 centuries 179c 24 wickets at 39.08 BB 4-15
At Melbourne in the 1907-08 series, Hutchings, who, like Blythe, was to become a widely-mourned First World War casualty, scored one of the most attractive centuries in the history of England v Australia Test matches
John Richard Mason (amateur) b.March 26, 1874 in Blackheath, Kent; d.October 15, 1958 in Cooden Beach, Sussex: 300 matches for Kent 1893-1914; 5 Tests: 129 runs at 12.90 HS 32, 2 wickets at 74.50 BB 1-8
17337 runs at 33.27 HS 183 34 centuries 390c 848 wickets at 22.39 BB 8-29
Kent president 1939
Edward “Punter” Humphreys (professional) b.August 24, 1881 in Ditton, Kent; d.November 6, 1949 in Maidstone, Kent: 366 matches for Kent 1899-1920
16603 runs at 27.95 HS 208 22 centuries 229c 379 wickets at 24.57 BB 7-33
Richard Norman Rowsell “Dick” Blaker (amateur) b.October 24, 1879 in Bayswater, London; d.September 11, 1950 in Eltham, Kent: 119 matches for Kent 1898-1908, Cambridge Blue
5359 runs at 22.61 HS 122 2 centuries 143c 9 wickets at 25.11 BB 2-1
Kent president 1950
Blaker’s twin daughters later played for the England women’s team
Cloudesley Henry Bullock “Slug” Marsham (amateur) b.February 10, 1879 in Stoke-Lyne, Oxfordshire; d.July 19, 1928 in Wrotham Heath, Kent: 141 matches for Kent 1900-22, captain 1904-08, Oxford Blue
5879 runs at 22.61 HS 161* 7 centuries 88c 2 wickets at 87.50 BB 1-0
Frederick Henry Huish (professional) b.November 15, 1869 in Clapham, London; d.March 16, 1957 in Northiam, Sussex: 469 matches for Kent 1895-1914
7547 runs at 12.85 HS 93 933c 377st
Colin “Charlie” Blythe (professional) b.May 30, 1879 in Deptford, Kent; d.November 8, 1917 near Passchendaele, Belgium: 381 matches for Kent 1899-1914; 19 Tests: 183 runs at 9.63 HS 27, 100 wickets at 18.63 BB 8-59
4443 runs at 9.87 HS 82* 206c 2503 wickets at 16.81 BB 10-30
Blythe shared the role of England’s premier slow left-arm bowler with Wilfred Rhodes in the pre-Great War period
Arthur Fielder (professional) b.July 19, 1977 in Plaxtol, Kent; d.August 30, 1949 in Lambeth, London: 253 matches for Kent 1900-14; 6 Tests: 78 runs at 11.14 HS 20, 26 wickets at 27.34 BB 6-82
2320 runs at 11.31 HS 112* 1 century 119c 1277 wickets at 21.02 BB 10-90
Fielder, one of England’s fastest bowlers, took all 10 wickets in an innings while playing for the Players against the Gentlemen at Lord’s in July 1906: Hutchings was among his victims
John Thomas Tyldesley (professional) b.November 22, 1873 in Roe Green, Lancashire; d.November 27, 1930 in Monton, Lancashire: 507 matches for Lancashire 1895-1923; 31 Tests: 1661 runs at 30.75 HS 138 4 centuries 16c
37897 runs at 40.66 HS 295* 86 centuries 355c 3 wickets at 70.33 BB 1-4
William “Billy” Findlay (amateur) b.June 22, 1880 in Liverpool; d.June 19, 1953 in Tenterden, Kent: 58 matches for Lancashire 1902-06, Oxford Blue 1984 runs at 19.45 HS 81 140c 27st
Surrey secretary 1907-19, MCC secretary 1926-36, Lancashire president 1947-48, MCC president 1951-52
As a result of the artist’s perfectionism, Billy Findlay modelled the other batsman even though he did not play in this 1906 match at Canterbury. Most of the players depicted were invited to Chevallier Tayler’s St John’s Wood studio, but Lancashire opening batsman Harry Makepeace was unable to attend. (Elsewhere it has been claimed that Findlay stood in for Archie MacLaren, who was away in India in the winter of 1906-07.) So Findlay, who was close at hand and available, was substituted.
Alfred John Atfield b.March 3, 1868 in Ightham, Kent; d.January 1, 1949 in Caterham, Surrey: 3 matches for Gloucestershire in 1893
137 runs at 12.45 HS 45 5c 3 wickets at 34.00 BB 3-102
Stood in 8 Test matches in South Africa 1909-10 to 1913-14
The square-leg umpire denied immortality by exclusion from this painting was Valentine Adolphus Titchmarsh (1880-1907), who played 8 first-class matches and stood in 3 Tests 1899-1905.
We are grateful to David Frith for preparing the catalogue note and to Stephen Green for his contributions.
1862 - 1925.