Leonard Campbell Taylor was one the most successful and sought-after British painters working between the wars, known equally through the exhibition of originals and the dissemination of reproductions. Though wide-ranging in his subject matter, he became particularly associated with beautifully observed interiors inhabited by serene young women, which were often compared to those of Vermeer. Leonard Campbell Taylor was born in Oxford on 12 December 1874, the second of four sons of James Taylor, organist of New College and the University of Oxford, and Eliza Ann (née Stone). He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, and then as a scholar at Cheltenham College. He studied art at the Ruskin School, in Oxford, and St John’s Wood School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, both in London. He began to exhibit regularly at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1899, while he was living at 61 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead.
Moving to Surrey in the first decade of the twentieth century, Taylor began to exhibit regularly at the Royal Institute of Painters in Oils (being elected a member in 1905) and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (a member in 1909).
He also exhibited in the provinces and abroad, winning a bronze medal at the Paris Salon in 1912. In 1914, he held a solo show at the Leicester Galleries. By 1911, he was boarding at the Ewhurst home of his friend, the artist, Frank Craig, who was married with two sons.
During the First World War, Taylor served first with the Surrey Volunteer Regiment (a Lieutenant in 1916 and a Captain in 1917), and then with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (a Lieutenant in 1918). Appointed as an Official War Artist in 1919, he worked in Liverpool, painting images of ships that had been decorated with dazzle camouflage.
In 1920, Taylor married Frank Craig’s widow, Katharine (née Moser), and they lived in Odiham, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, moving to Belsize Park Gardens, London, in the middle of the decade. During this period, his work evolved, with elegant historical domestic genre scenes giving way to his quintessential timeless interiors with figures. He also produced portraits of such distinguished sitters as Queen Mary (1928, commissioned by the Royal College of Music) and Mr and Mrs Stephen Courtauld (1934). He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1923, and became a full Academician in 1931, the year in which he won a gold medal at the Paris Salon. By that time, he was working from 1 Wychcombe Studios, Englands Lane. Katharine died in 1933, and two years later he married the artist, Brenda Moore. Together they would have one daughter. During the Second World War, they lived at Copse Hill Cottage, Ewhurst.
Taylor reached the apogee of his career in the late 1940s, when his paintings of figures in interiors were often compared to those of Vermeer. He was the subject of two significant monographs: Herbert Furst’s L Campbell Taylor, RA: His Place in Art (1945) and C G E Bunt’s Leonard Campbell Taylor (1949). The first of these contains a foreword by Viscount Lee of Fareham who, as one of the greatest collectors of the period, was a patron of Taylor. In 1950, he was elected a Senior Royal Academician. By then, he and Brenda had moved to Eastgate Hall, Felsham, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Later, they lived in Bury itself and, from 1960, at Pampisford Mill, Cambridge. By 1962, he had become a Trustee of the Whitechapel Art Gallery. He died on 1 July 1969.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the Imperial War Museums.