Monday, 21 April 2014

The Needleworking Women of Leonard Campbell Taylor

Although Leonard Campbell Taylor, born 1874 and died 1969, painted many of his works in the first half of the 20th century, there is a timeless clarity about them that recalls the women painted at their tasks by Vermeer. In many of his paintings (not shown) women are portrayed in their solitude at ends of corridors, halls and galleries, with that interesting recession of internal planes that is characteristic of Dutch painters of the Golden Age. The painting above is titled The Patchwork Quilt, and sadly I couldn't find a better image of it.
The portrait above is titled The Sampler and some describers have called it two women at a drawing board - but we know differently, don't we? With its triptych space and centrally placed framed Madonna and oriental-style carpet in the foreground, it recalls quattrocento sacra conversazione.
By contrast many would consider a women at her sewing machine to be a far more prosaic topic, but again, with the recession of planes in a simple domestic interior and with the side-lit subject at her work, Vermeer comes to mind.

Of all the portraits of women at their needlework, this is my favourite. We do not see the window to the left that is lighting the scene, but we see its magic through the illuminated embroidery on the frame and the light on the colonially made mother-of-pearl open workbox. And, as in Dutch paintings, we are left unsettled by the thought that has just entered the stitcher's mind. What is it that has caused her to pause and look up from her work?


  1. Oh, lovely, Vermeer is one of my favorite painters and you are right, these make you think of Vermeer's style. Thank you for posting this.

  2. How exciting! I stumbled on your blog today via Pinterest and discovered the photo of Leonard Campbell Taylor's "The Patchwork Quilt". A couple of years ago I bought a copy of this painting as a framed print on heavy paper at a fundraising yard sale on this small island on which I live. I love finding images of women doing needlework. Quilt history has been my passion for 30 some years but I had never seen this painting before. The signature is so distorted that I could not tell the name of the artist but thanks to Pinterest, I found your blog post so now I can properly label my print copy. Now I shall have to write about it on my blog Quilt History Reports!