AN ENGLISH CUBIST
Chronology of William Roberts
and his Family
[Last revised 20 May 2018]
The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring, 1915 (oil on canvas), 19612 (Tate Gallery)
(Roberts is the second from the left seated at the table.)
© The Estate of John David Roberts
Only the most important exhibitions of William Roberts's work are included in this chronology. For a fuller list of exhibitions in which his work has been featured, click here. It has not been possible to establish precise dates for some events, so the order in which events are listed for particular years may not be accurate.
|1895||5 June: William Patrick Roberts born at 44 Blackstone Road, London Fields, Hackney,
London E8, the second of four children (three sons and a daughter) of Edward Roberts,
a carpenter/handyman, and his wife, Emily, née Collins,
who were both from Islington in London. By the time the time William entered school, in October 1898, the family had moved to 4 Blanchard Road, E8, and at the time of the 1911 census they were living at 20 London Fields West Side, E8.|
The streets in Hackney where the young William Roberts lived and went to school. His parents had married in the church at bottom right. In 197075 the Blackstone Estate was built where Blackstone Road and Blanchard Road used to be.
|18981909||Attends Gayhurst Road School, E8.|
|1900||29 July: Sarah Kramer later Sarah Roberts born in Russia to Jewish parents, Max and Cecilia Kramer; her brother is the artist Jacob Kramer (18921962). By 1904 the family has emigrated to Leeds, where Max works as a photographer.|
|1907?||WR's school allows him to spend extra time on art classes.|
|1908?||Attends Queen's Road School (now Queensbridge Road Primary School), E8, for additional art classes.|
|1909||Leaves school and is apprenticed in the poster-designing and advertising department of the stationery and printing company Sir Joseph Causton & Sons, in Eastcheap, EC3.|
|190910||Attends evening classes run by William Robins at St Martin's School of Art, Endell
|1910||Wins a London County Council (LCC) scholarship to study art at the Slade School, WC1, remaining
there for three years and becoming friends with fellow students Jacob Kramer and David Bomberg.|
|1911||Contributes a panel showing carpenters at work, painted in egg tempera, to decorations for the walls of a girls club in Lillie Road, Fulham, SW6.|
|1912||Awarded an internal Slade scholarship.|
|Summer: Stays with Cyril Butler (a friend of Slade principal Henry Tonks) at Bourton House near Shrivenham, Berkshire.|
|1913||First commission from Cyril Butler for a portrait and six drawings of London markets (only two of which were
|Awarded the Slade's Melvill Nettleship Prize for figure composition.|
|Leaves the Slade; travels in France and Italy.|
|Autumn: Borrows a room at 18 Cumberland Market, just east of Regent's Park, NW1, and paints
his first 'abstract' pictures.|
Cumberland Market in the early twentieth century
|Recommended by Laurence Binyon of the British Museum print room to Roger Fry; starts
work at Fry's Omega Workshop in Fitzroy Square, W1.|
|December: His earliest surviving oil painting, The Return of Ulysses, is exhibited with the New English Art Club, in the Royal Society of British Artists Galleries, Suffolk Street, SW1.|
|1914||January: Exhibits with Roger Fry's Grafton Group at the Alpine Club Gallery, Mill Street, W1.|
|Meets Wyndham Lewis; leaves the Omega Workshop and joins the circle of Lewis, Edward Wadsworth,
Frederick Etchells and Cuthbert Hamilton.|
|MayJune: Exhibits eight works in the exhibition 'Twentieth-Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements' at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, E1.|
The catalogue of the exhibition 'Twentieth-Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements' at the Whitechapel Gallery
|June: Contributes two illustrations Dancers and Religion to the first issue of Blast the Review of the Great English Vortex (published 2 July) and Wyndham Lewis prints his name as a signatory to the Vorticist manifesto. In a letter in The Observer of 14 June 1914, Roberts is among the Vorticists who dissociate themselves from Marinetti's Futurist manifesto published there a week earlier.|
The cover of Blast No. 1
|4 August 1914: Britain declares war on Germany during the start of the First World War. Roberts, then living in Chalcot Crescent, NW1, continues working as an artist.||Autumn: Is among the young painters and sculptors accommodated by the hunger-marcher Stewart Gray in the house Gray rents at 8 Ormonde Terrace, by Primrose Hill and Regent's Park, NW8. In his Let There Be Sculpture (1940), Jacob Epstein describes how 'there was a life class at which I sometimes drew, and sometimes the artists, among others Roberts and Bomberg, a mysterious Indian artist, and some models, would have parties' there (ch. 11).||Is elected to the London Group. He exhibits with them in 1915, in the 1920s, and occasionally in the 1930s and '40s.||1915||Sarah Kramer, staying with David Bomberg and his wife to visit her brother Jacob in London during the school holidays, meets WR
with a group of Slade students in an ABC tea shop in Tottenham Court Road, W1.|
Sarah Kramer in 1915
|March: WR shows three works in the London Group exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, Regent Street, W1.||15 April: WR's cubist drawing of St George and the Dragon appears in the London Evening News.
||JuneJuly: Shows six works in the Vorticist exhibition at the Doré Galleries, New Bond Street, W1.||July: Contributes two illustrations to Blast No. 2: Combat and Drawing (Machine Gunners).||Works for some weeks in a munitions factory in Tufnell Park, NW5.||Late 1915 or early 1916: Fails to get accepted by the Artists Rifles.||1916||4 April: Enlists in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) as a gunner (no.123744), having failed
to join the Welch Regiment.||April: At 4th Depot RFA, Woolwich, London; then transferred to cavalry barracks at Weedon, Northamptonshire.||August: Spends embarkation leave at the Hôtel de la Tour Eiffel, 1 Percy Street, W1; then reports to RFA Woolwich depot before in mid-August embarking for Le Havre.||With his unit, joins the 51st Brigade, RFA; takes a course in signalling.||Late August/early September: Joins the gun batteries of the 51st Brigade facing Vimy Ridge.||Late 1916?: Becomes an officer's batman for a time, including a week at Paris-Plage
near Boulougne.||1917||Early spring: Moves with the 51st Brigade to Arras.||Late autumn: Moves with the 51st Brigade to the Ypres sector, north of the Menin Ridge.||Late 1917: Receives a letter from a friend, Captain Guy Baker, suggesting application
to Paul Konody, who is selecting artists to prepare war paintings for the Canadian
War Records Office.||1918||January: Two weeks' home leave, at Hackney and the Hôtel de la Tour Eiffel; then back to France to rejoin the 51st Brigade near Heudicourt.||Receives a letter dated 28 December 1917 from the Canadian War Records Office about
painting battle pictures for the Canadian War Memorial Fund.||Early 1918: With the 51st Brigade on the Somme at Etinehem near Albert.|
Roberts photographed at Etinehem, France, March 1918
|April: While retreating with the 51st Brigade to Messines in the Ypres sector, receives a summons to return to England as an official war artist for the Canadian War Records Office.||20 April: Arrives back in London, and is then joined by Sarah Kramer.||May: Approached by the British Ministry of Information to paint a picture for the
proposed Great War Hall of Remembrance.||Lives at 76 Grafton Street, W1, moving to 32 Percy Street, W1, in the summer.||June: Takes a six-month lease on 10 Chelsea Manor Studios, in Flood Street, SW3, to work on The First German Gas Attack at Ypres for the Canadian War Records Office.||Works on A Shell Dump, France for the Ministry of Information.||1919||3 January1 March: The First German Gas Attack at Ypres hangs with other Canadian-commissioned war paintings at the Royal Academy.||6 June: Sarah Kramer gives birth to Roberts's son, John David Roberts, at 54 Leigham Court Road, Streatham, London SW16 a maternity hospital run by the Mission of Hope, an organisation 'carried on for the reception of expecting Mothers (single women) of otherwise good character, and of respectable antecedents'. It was 'careful to take in only birth mothers who came from "decent" backgrounds, and particularly from a Christian home', though Sarah was from a Jewish family.||Prepares designs for Edith Sitwell's modernist anthology Wheels and a poster for Sacheverell Sitwell's 'French Art 19141919' exhibition.||Autumn: Designs three panels for the Hôtel de la Tour Eiffel.|
An advertisement for the Hôtel de la Tour Eiffel, mentioning Roberts's designs, in The Tyro, 1, 2 (1922)
|13 November: Demobilised.||Designs a cover for the December issue (no. 3) of the Coterie arts review.||December: A Shell Dump, France is included at the centre of an exhibition of war paintings at the Royal Academy, till February 1920.||1920||MarchApril: Takes part in the Group X exhibition at the Mansard Gallery, Heal's, W1.|
The poster (designed by E. McKnight Kauffer) for the Group X exhibition
|Moves to Albany Street, NW1.||1921||Moves to Mornington Crescent, NW1.||19212||Prepares a design for the cover of the arts periodical Fanfare.
||1922||Moves to Edith Grove, SW10.|
William Roberts (standing right) and Joseph Kramer (seated right) with others outside the Harlequin Tea Rooms, c.1922
|28 June: Marries Sarah Kramer from 7 Springfield Mount, Leeds.|
Sarah Roberts in Paris, after her wedding in 1922
Sarah and John Roberts in 1922
|Is commissioned by T. E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia') to make portrait drawings for the de-luxe edition of his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Lawrence's own portrait is painted by WR in a room at 2 Coleherne Terrace, Earl's Court, SW10. This room, rented from the artist William McCance, is used by WR as a studio until ? late 1924. Lawrence later writes of Roberts, 'He makes help difficult sometimes, and yet I feel that I would like the oyster if I had any tool strong enough to pry it open' (to Eric Kennington, 26 June 1923).||1923||Moves to 18 Fitzroy Street, W1.||Four-year-old John Roberts is dropped, and spends several months in hospital, eventually being operated on at the London Hospital by a surgeon named Milne, who receives a portrait of Sarah in payment.|
Roberts in his studio c.1923 (with Girl in Mauve Hat (aka Sarah) on the easel)
|November: First solo exhibition, at the Chenil Galleries, King's Road, SW3 'Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.||1924||Commissioned by Frank Pick of London Underground to prepare a large hoarding (The History of the Omnibus) for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 19246.||1925||February: Writes from 18 Fitzroy Street to William McCance apologising for a bounced cheque for the rent of space at 2 Coleherne Terrace and saying that 'the financial position is such that I feel proud when I am able to produce the cash for the next days [sic] meals.'||Moves to 59 College Road (now Eton College Road), NW3.||Becomes a visiting teacher at the LCC Central School of Art and Design, where he continues teaching until 1960, apart from
the war years.||Around this time makes experiments with etching perhaps through a link with the distinguished printmaker Agnes Miller Parker, who was married to William McCance, and/or the opportunity to use facilities at the Central School.||Contributes etchings to a Harold Monro chapbook.|
Harold Monro's The Chapbook No. 40, in which three etchings by Roberts appeared
|Through Sarah's friendship with Esther Lahr, begins to receive commissions for portraits of literary figures and for cover designs for the New Coterie magazine that Esther and her husband, Charles Lahr, run from their Progressive Bookshop in Red Lion Street, Holborn, WC1.||1926||27 April: A reading of Liam O'Flaherty's new play Darkness takes place in WR's studio, to establish the English copyright. The amateur cast includes Sarah Roberts.||December: Publication of the de-luxe edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, including Roberts's portraits and tailpieces.||1927||Joins the London Artists' Association.|
An advertisement in the November 1927 issue of the Burlington Magazine
|Prepares the jacket design for Rhys Davies's The Withered Root.
||Holidays with his family at La Ciotat, near Cassis in the south of France.||In August visits Germany with Rhys Davies, H. E. Bates, Charles Lahr and others.||1929||Solo exhibition (sponsored by the London Artists' Association) at the Cooling Galleries, New Bond Street,
W1 'Paintings by William Roberts'.||Moves to 59 Haverstock Hill, NW3.||Late 1920s||Through his brother Michael, becomes part of a cosmopolitan social group including Paul de Zoysa, which he records in a number of pictures.||Early 1930s||Spends some summers at T. E. Lawrence's cottage Clouds Hill, in Dorset.|
William and John Roberts at Clouds Hill in the early 1930s
|1931||Another solo exhibition (sponsored by the London Artists' Association) at the Cooling
Galleries 'Recent Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.||Wilfrid Evill, a solicitor and collector of modern British art, buys The Restaurant from the Cooling Galleries exhibition, going on to becoming a keen collector of Roberts's work over the next thirty years.||1932||Shows work in the Venice Biennale.||1933?||The Robertses spend twothree weeks in a flat in Alicante, Spain, owned by the brother of family friend Agustín de Irízar, lecturer in Spanish at Leeds University.||Late 1933||The London Artists' Association is disbanded. Roberts transfers to the Lefevre Gallery, King Street, SW1.||1935||Moves to 6 Provost Road, NW3.||FebruaryMarch: Solo exhibition, Lefevre Gallery 'New Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.||1938||March: Solo exhibition, Lefevre Gallery 'Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.||1939||Shortly after the start of the Second World War on 3 September, leaves London, staying briefly at Flint Cottage Earl Howe Road, Holmer Green, near High Wycombe; 21 St Mary's Road, Headington, Oxford; and 40 Park Town, Oxford, before moving to 76 Copse Lane, Marston, Oxford, by early June, remaining there until 1946 and teaching
one day a week at the Oxford Technical School.||1940||Appointed part-time war artist by the War Artists Advisory Committee of the Ministry of
Information.||194042||Collaborates with his son on the publication of two illustrated books of verse: Fantasy for Flute and Four Fables (published as by David Roberts).||1942||JulyAugust: Solo exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street, W1 'William Roberts'.||1945||OctoberNovember: Solo watercolour exhibition, Leicester Galleries, Leicester Square, WC2 'Drawings in Colour by William Roberts'.||1945?||Ernest Cooper, the owner of a number of health-food shops, starts buying WR's work and becomes
his principal patron, eventually owning 20 oils and 49 other works, mainly watercolours.||1946||Moves to rented rooms at 14 St Mark's Crescent, backing on to the canal near Regent's Park, London NW1.||1948||Begins exhibiting at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (subsequently shows there
every year until his death).||1949||November: Solo exhibition, Leicester Galleries, WC2 'New Drawings, Satirical and Otherwise by William Roberts'.||1950||12 February: Bernard Meninsky, Roberts's friend and colleague at the Central School, dies.|
(L to R) William Roberts, Sarah Roberts, Bernard Meninsky and an unknown woman, 1920s
|1951||The London Transport Board commissions a poster London's Fairs advertising fairs accessible by public transport.||As sole remaining sitting tenants of 14 St Mark's Crescent, the Robertses buy the house, with the help of Sarah's friend Victoria Kingsley. They will live there for the rest of their lives.||19568||Publishes The Resurrection of Vorticism and the Apotheosis of Wyndham Lewis at the Tate the first of five 'Vortex Pamphlets' in response to the exhibition 'Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism' at the Tate Gallery, London. (Subsequent
Vortex Pamphlets appear later in 1956, in 1957 and in 1958.)|
The catalogue for the Tate's exhibition 'Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism', which prompted Roberts's series of Vortex Pamphlets
|1957||Publishes Some Early Abstract and Cubist Work 19131920.||19 August: David Bomberg, Roberts's friend from the Slade, dies.||1958||February: Solo exhibition, Leicester Galleries, WC2 'Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.||25 April: Elected an Associate of the Royal Academy.||1960||Publishes Paintings 19171958 by William Roberts A.R.A.||1961||Receives an award from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation 'in recognition of his artistic
achievement and his outstanding service to British painting'.||1964||Publishes
William Roberts A.R.A., Paintings and Drawings 19091964.
||1965||Retrospective exhibition 'William Roberts, A.R.A.' organised by the Arts Council, at the Tate Gallery, London; WR designs the catalogue cover.|
The poster for WR's 1965 Arts Council retrospective, using part of his Chess Players 192930
|Refuses an OBE (earlier that year the Beatles had been awarded MBEs).||1966||28 April: Elected a Royal Academician.||JanuaryFebruary: The Arts Council retrospective exhibition travels to the Laing Art Gallery,
Newcastle, and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.||1967||Exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery 'William Roberts'.||1969||Publishes 8 Cubist Designs.
||September: Solo exhibition at the d'Offay Couper Gallery, Dering Street, W1 'William Roberts, R.A., Drawings and Watercolours 19151968'.||1970||31 December: Elected a Senior Royal Academician.|
|Early 1970s||Rebuffs requests for an interview or information by Richard Cork, who is carrying out research for the 1974 Arts Council exhibition 'Vorticism and Its Allies' and his 1976 book Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine.||1971||14 February: An article by Barrie Sturt-Penrose in the Observer magazine 'The Grand Recluses of Art' describes the Robertses' spartan lifestyle and claims that 'Roberts turned his back on the art world more than 25 years ago, and has become a virtual recluse.' Roberts responds with a leaflet, Fame or Defame: A Reply to Barrie Sturt-Penrose, complaining of falsified quotations and asking 'What kind of art critic is this, who sets out to criticise my pictures, but criticises my gas stove and kitchen table instead?' But Sturt-Penrose's image of Roberts as eccentric and unsociable endures thereafter.||FebruaryMarch: Retrospective exhibition at the Hamet Gallery, Cork Street, W1, part of which is then shown at
the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter 'William Roberts, R.A.: A Retrospective Exhibition'.||Exhibition at Gallery 27, Nottingham 'William Roberts R.A.'.||1972||January: Exhibition at the Tib Lane Galleries, Manchester 'Water-Colours by William Roberts'.||AprilJune: Exhibition at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery 'Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts' (from the collection of Ernest Cooper).||1973||April: Retrospective exhibition at the Hamet Gallery 'William Roberts, R.A.'.||1974||Publishes In Defence of English Cubists and Memories of the War to End War 191418.
||1976||Publishes Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts R.A.
||With Sarah, visits Etretat on the Normandy coast.
||Retrospective exhibition at the Parkin Gallery, Motcomb Street, SW1 'William Roberts R.A.'.||1977||Writes Early Years (published posthumously, in 1982).||1979||1 February: The exhibitions secretary of the Royal Academy writes to Roberts proposing a retrospective exhibition at the RA. Roberts declines the suggestion with thanks, saying that he does not wish to 'repeat [the] effort' of the 1965 Arts Council retrospective.||The Tate Gallery buys The Gutter from Ernest Cooper.||1980||20 January: Dies having worked up to the last day of his life.||In the years following Roberts's death, Sarah and John Roberts arrange exhibitions of his work still in the family's possession in commercial and public galleries and try to acquire other examples with a view to 14 St Mark's Crescent eventually becoming a Roberts house-museum.||SeptemberOctober: Retrospective exhibition at the Maclean Gallery, St George Street, W1 'William Roberts, R.A., 18951980'.||NovemberDecember: Exhibition at the Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Dering Street, W1 'William Roberts 18951980: Drawings and Watercolours'.||1981||The Tate Gallery buys Trooping the Colour from Ernest Cooper.||1982||Publication of Roberts's Early Years.
||Exhibition at Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., New York.||1983||MarchApril: Retrospective exhibition at Reading Museum and Art Gallery 'William Roberts R.A.: An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts
R.A. 18951980'.||1984||JulyOctober: Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London 'William Roberts 18951980: An Artist and his Family'.||1985||JulySeptember: Exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 'William Roberts R.A.: Watercolours, Drawings and Etchings'.||1986||MarchApril: Exhibition at the Gillian Jason Gallery, Inverness Street, NW1 'William Roberts 18951980: Double-Sided Drawings'.||1989||April: Exhibition at the Albemarle Gallery, Albemarle Street, W1 'William Roberts R.A.: Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours 19101978'.||1990||MarchApril: Exhibition at the Gillian Jason Gallery 'William Roberts: An Artist's View'.||John Roberts publishes in Valencia Five Posthumous Essays and other Writings by William Roberts.
||1991||JanuaryFebruary: Exhibition at the Gillian Jason Gallery 'William Roberts 18951980: 40 Self Portraits'.|
Sarah and John Roberts in the garden of 14 St Mark's Crescent, 1991
|1992||AprilMay: Exhibition at the Gillian Jason Gallery 'William Roberts 18951980: Humour and Satire'.||29 November: Sarah Roberts dies at 14 St Mark's Crescent.||1993||SeptemberOctober: Exhibition at the Gillian Jason Gallery 'William Roberts 18951980: Pictures Pure and Pagan'.||1995||Mid-February: John Roberts dies at 14 St Mark's Crescent. The art works in the house are taken in by the Tate Gallery for safekeeping, and as John has left no will the Treasury Solicitor thereafter administers his estate.||1998||6 May: Death of Ernest Cooper.||September: The William Roberts Society is formed to further the appreciation of Roberts's work. Eventually becoming a charitable trust, it organises lectures and outings, campaigns (unsuccessfully) for 14 St Mark's Crescent to become a Roberts house-museum and (with success) for an English Heritage blue plaque to be erected to mark Roberts's time there, is licensed by the Treasury Solicitor to administer copyright in Roberts's works, produces newsletters and a website about Roberts, and publishes short books on Sarah Roberts and on Roberts's work in the 1950s, as well as lobbying for the works by Roberts in John Roberts's estate to be kept together and donated to the nation.||2003||24 October: An English Heritage blue plaque commemorating Roberts's time at 14 St Mark's Crescent is unveiled there by the playwright Alan Bennett. |
14 St Mark's Crescent Roberts's studio was the room to the right of the front door. The blue plaque commemorating his living there was unveiled in 2003. The colour scheme is as towards the end of the Robertses' time; the burglar alarm and the planting are not.
|2007||January March: Exhibition at Pallant Gallery, Chichester 'William Roberts: England at Play'.||December: The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council announces that 117 works by WR from the estate of John Roberts are allocated to the Tate collection in lieu of inheritance tax on the estate of Sarah Roberts. The other works in John's estate some 430 in total, still being stored by Tate are also to be given to the Tate collection if no valid claim to them is made in the 25 years after John's death.||2011||1516 June: Works by Roberts in the Sotheby's sale of the collection of Wilfrid Evill and his ward Honor Frost fetch record auction prices for the artist.||2012||10 May: At Sotheby's, The Chess Players 192930 sells for £1,161,250 the only work by Roberts to make more than £1 million at auction.||201213||May 2012March 2013: Exhibition at Tate Britain 'Focus: William Roberts', about 40 works from the Tate collection, with an emphasis on drawings acquired from the estate of John Roberts.||2015||April: The William Roberts Society decides to dissolve itself. |
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