Taylor, Peter (1756-1788) (DNB00)

TAYLOR, PETER or PATRICK (1756–1788), decorative artist and painter of one of the few authentic portraits of Robert Burns [q. v.], was born in 1756. A house and decorative painter, he occasionally executed portraits of his friends; but he had no great skill. At the time of Burns's visit to Edinburgh in 1786 Taylor lived in West Register Street, where the poet frequently breakfasted with him, and gave him several sittings for a portrait, the earliest which exists. Gilbert Burns, the poet's brother, remarked, when in 1812, with James Hogg and others, he visited Taylor's widow to see the portrait, ‘It is particularly like Robert in the form and air; with regard to venial faults I care not.’ The suggestion that it represented the poet's brother Gilbert seems without foundation. The portrait, which is at present lent by Mr. W. A. Taylor to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, was engraved in line by J. Horsburgh in 1830.

Taylor was also interested in industrial pursuits, and introduced the manufacture of painted waxcloth, ‘the figuring of linen floorcloth for carpeting,’ into Scotland, in consideration of which the board of manufactures voted him a premium of 100l. (13 Feb. 1788) ‘towards the expense incurred by him in erecting the necessary building, machinery, and apparatus for carrying on the work.’

Falling into delicate health, he went to France, and died at Marseilles on 20 Dec. 1788. Taylor was married, and left a widow and an infant daughter.

[Edinburgh Literary Journal, 21 Nov. and 5 Dec. 1829; Cat. of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery; books of the Board of Manufactures; Campbell's Journey from Edinburgh, 1802.]

J. L. C.