The Patron

This piece first appeared in William Roberts, Five Posthumous Essays and Other Writings (Valencia, 1990). © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society.

Ernest Cooper, Esq.

Ernest Cooper, Esq., c.1949

From about 1945 W.R. had one chief patron [Ernest Cooper], who amassed in time a unique collection. (A list gives 20 oils and 49 others, mainly water-colours.) These were at modest prices, for a good price needs at least two contending buyers; a law of economics. Thus the £8,000 fetched by 'Bank Holiday in the Park' (see 'Dealers and Galleries') arose because two monied dealers were after it. (Sarah has written on the catalogue of the sale, at this item, that the patron 'Paid £100 to me with great difficulty.')

The Patron sold his collection over a period of years. Two items were of special interest. The first was 'The Gutter', sold to the Tate in 1979. W.R., naturally, wanted to know the price paid. But Patron and Tate were primly discreet, and W.R.'s curiosity remained unsatisfied. However, the Patron gave him £1,000.

The second item of interest was 'Trooping the Colour'. This was exhibited at the Academy in 1959, priced £1,500, but was not sold. The Patron came to the rescue, but could only manage one-sixth of the asking price, namely £250. W.R. banked this, and kept the paying-in slip in an envelope for many years, together with the withdrawal slip of a first instalment of £5. I came across these after his death, and have had them framed, for possible exhibition at the Tate.

In 1980 [actually 1981] 'Trooping the Colour' was sold to the Tate, for £20,000 or perhaps much more. It was too late then to make any payment to the artist.

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