name Robert Taylor has been synonymous with aviation art over a
quarter of a century. His paintings of aircraft, more than those
of any other artist, have helped popularise a genre which at the
start of this remarkable artist's career had little recognition
in the world of fine art. When he burst upon the scene in the mid-1970s
his vibrant, expansive approach to the subject was a revelation.
His paintings immediately caught the imagination of enthusiasts
and collectors alike . He became an instant success.
As a boy, Robert seemed always to have a pencil in
his hand. Aware of his natural gift from an early age, he never
considered a career beyond art, and with unwavering focus, set out
to achieve his goal. Leaving school at fifteen, he has never worked
outside the world of art. After two years at the Bath School of
Art he landed a job as an apprentice picture framer with an art
gallery in Bath, the city where Robert has lived and worked all
his life. Already competent with water-colours the young apprentice
took every opportunity to study the works of other artists and,
after trying his hand at oils, quickly determined he could paint
to the same standard as much of the art it was his job to frame.
Soon the gallery was selling his paintings, and the
owner, recognising Robert's talent, promoted him to the busy picture-restoring
department. Here, he repaired and restored all manner of paintings
and drawings, the expertise he developed becoming the foundation
of his career as a professional artist. Picture restoration is an
exacting skill, requiring the ability to emulate the techniques
of other painters so as to render the damaged area of the work undetectable.
After a decade of diligent application, Robert became one of the
most capable picture restorers outside London. Today he attributes
his versatility to the years he spent painstakingly working on the
paintings of others artists.
After fifteen years at the gallery, by chance he was introduced
to Pat Barnard, whose military publishing business happened also
to be located in the city of Bath. When offered the chance to become
a full-time painter, Robert leapt at the opportunity. Within a few
months of becoming a professional artist, he saw his first works
in print. The Military Gallery has published every print reproduced
from Robert's paintings ever since.
Robert's early career was devoted to maritime paintings, and he
achieved early success with his prints of naval subjects, one of
his admirers being Lord Louis Mountbatten. He exhibited successfully
at the Royal Society of Marine Artists in London and soon his popularity
attracted the attention of the media. Following a major feature
on his work in a leading national daily newspaper he was invited
to appear in a BBC Television programme. This led to a string of
commissions for the Fleet Air Arm Museum who, understandably, wanted
aircraft in their maritime paintings. It was the start of Robert's
career as an aviation artist.
Fascinated since childhood by the big, powerful machines that man
has invented, switching from one type of 'hardware' to another has
never troubled him. Being an artist of the 'old school', Robert
tackled the subject of painting aircraft with the same gusto as
with his large, action-packed maritime pictures - big compositions
supported by powerful and dramatic skies, painted on large canvases.
It was a formula new to the aviation art genre, at the time not
used to such sweeping canvases, but one that came naturally to an
artist whose approach appeared to have origins in an earlier classical
Robert's aviation paintings are instantly recognisable. He somehow
manages to convey all the technical detail of aviation in a traditional
and painterly style, reminiscent of the Old Masters. With uncanny
ability, he is able to recreate scenes from the past with a carefully
rehearsed realism that few other artists ever manage to achieve.
This is partly due to his prodigious research but also his attention
to detail: Not for him shiny new factory-fresh aircraft looking
like museum specimens. His trade mark, flying machines that are
battle-scarred, worse for wear, with dings down the fuselage, chips
and dents along the leading edges of wings, oil stains trailing
from engine cowlings, paintwork faded with dust and grime; his planes
Robert's aviation works have drawn crowds in the international
arena since the early 1980s. He has exhibited throughout the US
and Canada, Australia, Japan and in Europe. His one-man exhibition
at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington
DC was hailed as the most popular art exhibition ever held there.
His paintings hang in many of the world's great aviation museums,
adorn boardrooms, offices and homes, and his limited edition prints
are avidly collected all around the world.
A family man with strong Christian values, Robert devotes most
of what little spare time he has to his home life. Married to Mary
for thirty five years, they have five children, all now grown up.
Neither fame nor fortune has turned his head. He is the same easy-going,
gentle character he was when setting out on his painting career
all those years ago, but now with a confidence that comes with the
knowledge that he has mastered his profession.