William Benjamin Sarsfield Taylor, Landscape and Subject Painter

(b. 1781, d. 1850)

Landscape and Subject Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin in 1781, the son of John McKinley Taylor (q.v.). He became a pupil in the Dublin Society's Schools in 1800, and in 1801 won the prize for the second best landscape. Next year he sent, from his father's house at Donnybrook, three "Views" to the exhibition in the Parliament House, and was also awarded by the Dublin Society a prize for a landscape in aquatint. He again exhibited in 1804, after he had left the schools and was supporting himself as a teacher of drawing. He also exhibited each year from 1809 to 1812, but did not again appear until 1815. In the interval he had joined the Commissariat Department, and served in the Peninsula, being present at the siege of San Sebastian in 1813. Quitting the service he returned to Dublin, and his name appears as a contributor to the exhibitions in 1815, 1816 and 1817. In the latter year he was secretary to the Artists' Society, and was then residing with his father at No. 8 Upper Baggot Street. About this time he was engaged upon a "History of the University of Dublin," and in 1819 he issued a prospectus of the projected work. It was to be issued in twelve numbers, royal quarto, at half a guinea each; the numbers to consist of about twenty-six pages of letterpress, and each to contain two coloured plates. The plates were to be issued in the following order:

1. College Green Front.

2. Museum.

3. Fellow's Garden.

4. Interior of Grand Square.

5. Kitchen.

6. Dining Hall.

7. Provost's House.

8. Provost Baldwin's Monument.

9. Interior of the Chapel.

10. Interior of the Library.

11. Front towards Park.

12. Interior of the Examination Hall.

13. Exterior of the Library.

14. Botanic Garden.

15. Medical Lecture Room.

16. Ground Plan of the College

17. Costumes, etc., 5 plates.

18. College Observatory.

19. Provosts' Burying Place.

The issue of the work was begun in 1820, but it failed to enlist the support of the public, and only a few of the plates were published. They were drawn and etched by Taylor himself, and aquatinted, some by Bluck and others by Havell. They are badly drawn and ridiculously coloured, and by no means correct representations of the College buildings. Those actually published were Nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 13 and 18 of the above list, and two plates of costumes, "A Fellow" and "A Fellow Commoner." The views, with their titles as published, were:

Front of Trinity College, Dublin. Published 6th August, 1819, by W. B. Taylor.

The Grand Square, T.C.D., at the Quarterly Examination. 1819.

View of the Dining Hall, etc., from the Provost's Gardens.


S. W. View of the Library, Trin. Coll., Dublin, 1820.

The College Park, Trin. Coll., Dublin. 1820.

N. E. View of the College Observatory. 1820.

Each plate measures about 11 by 14 inches.

Many years later, in 1845, Taylor published his History in one volume, octavo, with a few wood-cut illustrations and an engraved frontispiece.

Taylor took an active part in the efforts which were made for the incorporation of the artists of Ireland, and was a member of the permanent committee which, for many years, worked for that end. The application for a charter, signed by some thirty artists in 1819, was drawn up by him, and he finally saw the results of his labours in the incorporation of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1823. He exhibited at the Academy's first exhibition, in 1826, contributing three works: "A View of the Thames from a window in the Middle Temple," "The Defeat of the Turks by the Greeks, on 26th August, 1822," and "A View of the Rock and Convent of Cintra, from the road to Lisbon," no doubt from a drawing made during the Peninsula campaign. He also exhibited in 1827, 1828 and 1829, contributing, in 1828, a picture of "The Battle of Barrosa and Capture of an Eagle by Capt. Masterson, of the 87th Regt." Some poor etchings: "The Storming of San Sebastian," and other Peninsula engagements, published by J. Charles, No. 57 Mary Street, were probably by him. His name was not included amongst the original members of the Academy; he was not in Ireland at the time of its first exhibition, having some time before taken up his residence in London, where he passed the rest of his life.

He was a constant exhibitor at the Royal Academy, from 1829 to 1847, and at the British Institution from 1830 to 1846, contributing views, subject pieces, and several military pictures. He was a Member for a short time, 1831 to 1833, of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-colours. In the latter part of his life he was Curator of the St. Martin's Lane Academy.

He never attained to any distinction as an artist, and he is better known as an art writer and critic. He contributed to the "Morning Chronicle," and, besides his "History of the University of Dublin," he published a translation of Merimée's "Art of Painting in Oil and Fresco," in 1839; "A Manual of Fresco and Encaustic Painting," in 1843; and "The Origin, Progress and Present Condition of the Fine Arts in Great Britain and Ireland," published in two volumes, 8vo, in 1841.

He died on the 23rd December, 1850.

John Sydney Taylor, barrister and journalist, was his younger brother.

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