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David Phillips Foulkes Taylor (1929–1966)

by Dorothy Erickson

This article was published:

David Phillips Foulkes Taylor (1929-1966), furniture designer, was born on 23 June 1929 in Perth, eldest of five children of Douglas Charles Foulkes Taylor, an English-born pastoralist, and his wife Helen Rosemary Dorothy Blake, née Taylor, who was born in India. David was educated at Christ Church Grammar School, Perth, and Geelong Church of England Grammar School, Victoria, where he was exposed to the ideas of modernism by the art teacher Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack. While still at school he longed to travel, to live a Bohemian life in Paris, to mix with architects and to collect art, antiques and modern furniture.

In 1947 David Foulkes Taylor enrolled in architecture at Perth Technical College, but after a year left for London to study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, Holborn. Holidays were spent hitchhiking on the Continent. He gained experience with Norman Potter, a furniture craftsman at Corsham, Wiltshire, before moving on to New York. Back in Perth in 1954, he began to design furniture. Three years later he visited Japan where, on 4 July 1957, he married Mary Attaway Lee, an American playwright and musician known as 'Maryat' Lee, whom he had met in London. After the wedding he returned to Perth, and his wife to the United States of America; they remained childless. The marriage was unconventional as they were to pursue their careers on different continents.

A promoter of modern design, Foulkes Taylor, as he was known, opened a showroom at his Crawley home in 1957. He displayed furniture made by noted European craftsmen, and also ceramics, glassware, pictures and imported fabrics. The Triangle Gallery, which he established at the same address in 1960, soon became a gathering spot for people interested in the arts. He commissioned the modernist architect Julius Elischer to design a purpose-built gallery at Nedlands. The new building, occupied in 1965, created a sculptural setting for imported pieces and the work of local artists and craftsmen.

Foulkes Taylor's own designs, while in the modernist tradition, were eclectic. Influenced by Scandinavian and English work, he was also interested in Japanese arts and crafts and American Shaker decorative arts. He collected early colonial furniture of Western Australia. Receiving commissions from individual clients and from architects to design or supply modern furniture, he was reliant on the ability of craftsmen to understand his concepts. He encouraged them to use jarrah, a local timber. His enthusiasm for the wood was shared by Joseph Pietrocola and Charles and Roy Catt, who made his later designs.

A committee-member (1955-57) of the Art Gallery Society, Foulkes Taylor was a member of the Weld Club, the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, the Fabian Society and the Australian Labor Party. He died of the effects of injuries received in a motorcar accident on 19 September 1966 at Woodside, Victoria, and was cremated with Baptist forms. His wife survived him. Robert Bell described him as having had 'a pervasive influence on the design of the ''new'' Perth of the 1960s'. In 1982 the Western Australian Institute of Technology staged an exhibition of modern design, The Foulkes Taylor Years.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Duffy (ed), The Foulkes Taylor Years, exhibition catalogue (Perth, 1982)
  • Corian, Dec 1945
  • Craftwest, no 4, 1995, p 23
  • West Australian, 20 Sept, 14 Oct 1966.

Citation details

Dorothy Erickson, 'Taylor, David Phillips Foulkes (1929–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Foulkes Taylor, David Phillips

23 June, 1929
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


19 September, 1966 (aged 37)
Woodside, Victoria, Australia

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