The William Roberts Society



Chronology of William Roberts

and his Family



Based on details in WR's writings, the biographical details in Elizabeth Cayzer's Maclean Gallery catalogue William Roberts, R.A. 1895–1980: A Retrospective Exhibition, chronologies in the 1984 National Portrait Gallery catalogue William Roberts 1895–1980: An Artist and his Family and the 1989 Albemarle Gallery catalogue William Roberts R.A.: Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours 1910–1978, and information supplied by Ruth Artmonsky. However, some dates remain uncertain.


[Last revised 14 July 2015]

The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour 
Eiffel: Spring, 1915

The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring, 1915 (oil on canvas), 1961–2 (Tate Gallery)
(Roberts is the second from the left seated at the table.)
© The Estate of John David Roberts





1895
5 June: William Patrick Roberts born at 44 Blackstone Road, London Fields, Hackney, London E8, the third of four children (three sons and a daughter) of Edward Roberts, a carpenter/handyman from Co. Cork in Ireland, and his wife, Emily, née Collins, whom Edward had met in London. (The family later moved to 20 West Side – date unknown.)
1898/9?–1909
Attends Gayhurst Road School.
1900
29 July: Sarah Kramer – later Sarah Roberts – born in Leeds, the daughter of Russian émigré Jews, Max and Cecilia Kramer, and sister of the artist Jacob Kramer (1892–1962).
1907?
WR's school allows him to spend extra time on art classes.
1908?
Attends Queen's Road School for additional art classes.
1909
Leaves school and is apprenticed to Sir Joseph Causton Ltd, a poster designing and advertising firm.
1909–10
Attends evening classes run by William Robins at St Martin's School of Art, Endell Street, London WC2.
1910
Wins a London County Council (LCC) scholarship to study art at the Slade School, remaining there for three years and becoming friends with Jacob Kramer, a fellow student.
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.
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 Sir Cyril Butler for six drawings of London markets (only two of which were completed).

Awarded the Melvill Nettleship Prize for figure composition.

Leaves the Slade; travels in France and Italy.

Autumn: Borrows room in Old Cumberland Hay Market, north of Regent's Park, and paints his first 'Abstract' pictures.
Recommended by Laurence Binyon of the British Museum Print Room to Roger Fry; starts work at Fry's Omega Workshop in Fitzroy Square, London W1.
December: His earliest surviving oil painting, The Return of Ulysses, is exhibited at the New English Art Club.
1914
January: Exhibits with Roger Fry's Grafton Group at the Alpine Club Gallery, London.
Meets Wyndham Lewis; leaves Omega Workshop and joins the circle of Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, Frederick Etchells and Cuthbert Hamilton.
May/June: Exhibits eight works in the exhibition 'Twentieth-Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements' at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.
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.
1915
Sarah Kramer, visiting her brother in London during the school holidays, meets WR with a group of Slade students in an ABC tea shop in Tottenham Court Road.
March: WR shows three works in the London Group exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, London.
15 April: WR's cubist drawing of St George and the Dragon appears in the London Evening News.
June/July: Shows six works in the Vorticist exhibition at the Doré Galleries, London.
July: Contributes two illustrations to Blast No. 2: 'Combat' and 'Drawing' ('Machine Gunners').
Fails to get accepted by the Artists' Rifles.
Works for some weeks in a munitions factory in Tufnell Park, London NW5.
1916
4 April: Enlists in Royal Field Artillery (RFA) as a gunner (no.123744), having failed to join 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, Percy Street, London W1, then reports to RFA Woolwich depot before in mid-August embarking for Le Havre.
With his unit, joins 51st Brigade, RFA; takes course in signalling.
Late August/early September: Joins the gun batteries of 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 51st Brigade to Ypres sector, north of the Menin Ridge.
Late 1917: Receives 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 51st Brigade near Neuport.
Receives letter dated 28 December 1917 from the Canadian War Records Office about painting battle pictures for the Canadian War Memorial Fund.
Early 1918: With 51st Brigade on the Somme at Etinehem near Albert.
April: While retreating with 51st Brigade to Messines in the Ypres sector, receives 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.
May: Approached by the British Ministry of Information to paint a picture for the proposed Great War Hall of Remembrance.
Takes studio in Flood Street, Chelsea, 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.
Winter: The First German Gas Attack at Ypres hangs with other Canadian-commissioned war paintings at the Royal Academy.
1919
6 June: Son – John David Roberts – born at 54 Leigham Court Road, Streatham, London SW16; father's address given as 59 College Road, Chalk Farm, London NW3.
A Shell Dump, France included at the centre of a exhibition of memorial art at the Royal Academy.
Prepares designs for Edith Sitwell's Wheels and for Sitwell's 'French Art 1914–1919' exhibition.
September/October: Demobilised (date sometimes given as 15 October).
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)

Designs a cover for the December issue (no. 3) of the Coterie arts review (and later for the relaunched New Coterie in 1925–7).
1920
March: Takes part in Group X exhibition at Mansard Gallery, Heal's, London W1.
Told by Colin Gill, a former fellow student at the Slade, that T. E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia') is seeking artists to make portrait drawings for a book he is producing.
Meets T. E. Lawrence and starts work on drawings for the de-luxe edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom (published 1926).
Early 1920s
Spends some summers at T. E. Lawrence's cottage Clouds Hill, in Dorset.
1921–2
Prepares design for the cover of Fanfare.
1922
28 June: Marries Sarah Kramer from 7 Springfield Mount, Leeds.
T. E. Lawrence commissions portrait illustrations for Seven Pillars of Wisdom and has his own portrait painted.
1923
November: First solo exhibition, at Chenil Galleries, London – 'Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.
1924
Commissioned by Frank Pick of the London Underground to prepare a large hoarding (The History of the Omnibus) for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924–6.

The Bus Stop (1924)

The Bus-stop, study for a poster, 1924

1925
Becomes a visiting teacher at the LCC Central School and continues there, apart from the war years, until 1960.
1926
Publication of the de-luxe edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, including Roberts portraits and tailpieces.
1927
Joins the London Artists' Association.
Prepares jacket design for Rhys Davies's The Withered Root.
In August visits Germany with Rhys Davies, H. E. Bates, Charles Lahr and others.
Contributes etchings to a Harold Monro chapbook.
1929
Solo exhibition (sponsored by London Artists' Association) at the Cooling Galleries, London.
1931
Another solo exhibition (sponsored by London Artists' Association) at the Cooling Galleries, London – 'Recent Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.
1932
Shows work in the Venice Biennale.
1933?
The Robertses spend two–three weeks in a flat in Alicante, Spain, owned by the brother of family friend Agustín de Irízar, lecturer in Spanish at Leeds University.
1934?
London Artists' Association disbanded. Roberts transfers to Lefevre Gallery, London.
1935
February/March: Solo exhibition, Lefevre Gallery, London – 'New Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.
1938
March: Solo exhibition, Lefevre Gallery, London – 'Works by William Roberts'.
1939
Moves to Oxford shortly after the outbreak of war, remaining there until 1945. Teaches one day a week at the Oxford Technical School.
1940
Appointed part-time war artist by the Artists Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Information.
1942
July/August: Solo exhibition, Redfern Gallery, London – 'William Roberts'.
1945
October/November: Solo water-colour exhibition, Leicester Galleries, London – '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 14 St Mark's Crescent, backing on to the canal near Regent's Park, London NW1, where he will live for the rest of his life.
1948
Begins exhibiting at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (subsequently shows there every year until his death).
1949
November: Solo exhibition, Leicester Galleries, London – 'New Drawings, Satirical and Otherwise by William Roberts'.
1951
London Transport Board commissions a poster – London's Fairs – advertising fairs accessible by public transport.
1956–8
Publishes The Resurrection of Vorticism and the Apotheosis of Wyndham Lewis at the Tate – the first of five Vortex Pamphlets – in response to the Wyndham Lewis exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London. (Subsequent Vortex Pamphlets appear later in 1956, in 1957 and in 1958.)
1957
Publishes Some Early Abstract and Cubist Work 1913–1920.
1958
February: Solo exhibition, Leicester Galleries, London – 'Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts'.
25 April: Elected an Associate of the Royal Academy.
1960
Publishes Paintings 1917–1958 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 1909–1964.
1965
Retrospective exhibition – 'William Roberts, A.R.A.' – organised by the Arts Council, at the Tate Gallery, London; WR designs catalogue cover.
Refuses OBE (earlier that year the Beatles had been awarded MBEs).
1966
28 April: Elected a Royal Academician.
January/February: Tate 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 d'Offay Couper Gallery, London – 'William Roberts, R.A., Drawings and Watercolours 1915–1968'.
1971
Retrospective exhibition at Hamet Gallery, London, part of which is then shown at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter – 'William Roberts, R.A.: A Retrospective Exhibition'.
Exhibition at Gallery 27 Emporium Arcade, Nottingham – 'William Roberts R.A.'.
April: Retrospective exhibition at Hamet Gallery, London.
1972
Worthing Museum and Art Gallery – 'Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts' (from the collection of Ernest Cooper).
Exhibition at the Tib Lane Galleries, Manchester – 'Water-Colours by William Roberts'.
1973
Retrospective exhibition at Hamet Gallery, London – 'William Roberts, R.A.'.
1974
Publishes In Defence of English Cubists and Memories of the War to End War 1914–18.
1976
Publishes Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts R.A.
Retrospective exhibition at Parkin Gallery, London – 'William Roberts R.A.'.
1977
Writes Early Years (published posthumously, in 1982).
1979
The Tate Gallery buys The Gutter from Ernest Cooper.
1980
20 January: Dies – having worked up to the last day of his life.
The Tate Gallery buys Trooping the Colour from Ernest Cooper.
September/October: Retrospective exhibition at Maclean Gallery, London – 'William Roberts, R.A., 1895–1980'.
Exhibition at Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London – 'William Roberts 1895–1980: Drawings and Watercolours'.
1982
Publication of William Roberts: Early Years.
Exhibition at Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., New York.
1983
March/April: Retrospective exhibition at Reading Museum and Art Gallery – 'William Roberts R.A.: An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts R.A. 1895–1980'.
1984
July/October: Exhibition at National Portrait Gallery, London – 'William Roberts 1895–1980: An Artist and his Family'.
1985
Exhibition at Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – 'William Roberts R.A.: Watercolours, Drawings and Etchings'.
1986
Exhibition at Gillian Jason Gallery, London – 'Double-Sided Drawings'.
1989
Exhibition at Albemarle Gallery, London – 'William Roberts R.A.: Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours 1910–1978'.
1990
Exhibition at Gillian Jason Gallery, London – 'William Roberts, Paintings and Drawings'.
John Roberts publishes in Valencia Five Posthumous Essays and other Writings by William Roberts.
1991
Exhibition at Gillian Jason Gallery, London – '40 Self-Portraits'.
1992
April/May: Exhibition at Gillian Jason Gallery, London – 'William Roberts 1895–1980: Humour and Satire'.
29 November: Sarah Roberts dies at St Mark's Crescent.
1995
Mid-February: John Roberts dies, intestate, at St Mark's Crescent. The art works in the house are taken in by the Tate Gallery for safekeeping.
1998
6 May: Death of Ernest Cooper.
2007
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.


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