Sir Cyril Butler

Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below. Any auction prices quoted may not include all fees and taxes, such as VAT and Artist's Resale Right charges.

Sir Cyril Butler

Sir Cyril Butler, 1911–12
Red chalk, 55 cm x 37.9 cm

Cyril Kendall Butler (1864–1936; he was not in fact knighted until 1920) was a commissioner in the Ministry of Food and a founder, treasurer and chairman of the Contemporary Art Society. In his posthumously published Early Years, Roberts wrote, 'In the summer vacations of the following year [1912], I received another invitation to spend a few weeks in the country; this time from Sir Cyril Butler – a friend of Prof. Tonks [of the Slade School, where Roberts was studying] and a patron of the group of artists, members of the New English Art Club. Bourton House, where Butler lived, was a large country mansion near Shrivenham in Berkshire, set in extensive parkland . . . Following on my stay at Bourton, Sir Cyril commissioned me to do six drawings of London markets at two guineas each. But except for two markets, Billingsgate and Leadenhall, the drawings were never carried out. Several years after this, about 1919, I was living in an attic at 32 Percy Street, Tottenham Court Road, and being very hard up I wrote to Sir Cyril, hoping he might feel interested in buying a drawing or perhaps complete that set of London markets. He did not reply; instead, he called one evening; the visit was brief. After asking me what artists I associated with, and who my friends were, without mentioning the market drawings he departed, leaving me no better off than before.'
PROVENANCE: With the Mayor Gallery, 1969, from whom acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, with the University Purchase Fund, 1969. William Roberts wrote to the Fitzwilliam Museum in July 1969 confirming the attribution and describing the circumstances of the sitting ('was done about 1911 or 1912 during my student days at the Slade').

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