[From Mannin #7, 1916]

Archibald Knox

DESIGNER, watercolour painter, and art master, born in Douglas; lived there, within sight of the sea, for thirty-three years, working and studying art traditions and the colour of the Island's shores and clouds, creating thus a style, complete in itself, his own and none other. There are few who give their whole force to the developing of the Spirit which is Art; those who do leave their work to be the milestones on the Road.

You of the Island can write of Mr. Knox's early work, I only know the result of it. He came to us in England to teach in three art schools of Surrey: Kingston, Wimbledon, and Redhill, and also to design for Liberty's. We students had seen Mr. Knox's work at exhibitions, but as Design Master we first met him.

The first morning, as many mornings afterwards, he came into the art school room in spotless linen and Manx grey tweed, smiling, and saying 'Good morning to you' — we did not know then that that was Manx manner of words. Passing from one student to another, illustrating and explaining, Mr. Knox spoke only to help. Cistercian almost in his silence, expressing with a few strokes of his pencil more than many masters could by half-an-hour's talk. It was always a sorrow to us when his blackboard drawings had to be rubbed out. The last drawing on the board before he left England was a perfectly drawn anvil — drawn for a student who was making a composition. For many weeks that drawing remained regarded as a symbol of work.

Mr. Knox's system of teaching was essentially his own. Instead of insisting on the English method of art education by making laborious copies of scraps of museum specimens of 'styles' he made at his own expense three thousand lantern slides, illustrating works of art from prehistoric times down to the gipsy caravans of to-day, showing how Art was produced by the workman in the joy of using his chisel or hammer. To you of MANNIN it will be interesting to know that he gave lectures on your grey thatched homes, your churches, and your crosses, making us love them as if they were our own.

Many of the lectures were divided into groups, such as colour, windows, pot contours, etc. Comparing one example with another Mr. Knox would show which had the greatest thought in it, which was most suited to its purpose and the material used — teaching that there were two Natures, Outside Nature and Our Own, the last being Art, Art the outcome, or the reward of practice and study. Style or Art came to the artist as to the musician, only after long and continual application to the paintbox or the keyboard, application with resolution and thought. Not until this Self Nature was expressed was the work produced complete, distinctive by its individuality, glowing as a stone mined from the recesses of the unknown.

Whenever anything is said about individuality and modern art, the art critics (there are always some about) fly up and say 'Oh, we don't want anything extraordinary,' forgetting that there can be new good and simple things that represent the thought of a modern mind. When Mr. Knox gave up teaching in England, there were many to miss his helping hand, and twenty of his students banded together and formed The Knox Guild of Design and Crafts. The main object of the Guild is to carry out Mr. Knox's teachings, and to encourage by public exhibitions and craft demonstrations a wider public interest in the design of personal and household belongings. These exhibitions have created much interest and have attracted hundreds of people.

To designers it will be interesting to know that Mr. Knox has discovered the principle upon which counterchanges are formed, and has written a book upon the subject and made some hundreds of illustrations, but unfortunately has not tried to get it published.

For Liberty's, the art shop of Regent Street, Mr. Knox made over four hundred designs. One of their directors recently said 'We have never had anyone to work for us like Mr. Knox.' No doubt Mr. Knox s influence has done much to help make Liberty's name famous for colour, pewter, and jewellery work. A series of designs for pewter for table use for this firm established a new era in pewter design; some of these pieces of work exhibit the simplicity and the style of Mr. Knox's design as well perhaps as any of his work — the perfect contour of the form, the strong 'spiritual' curves of the interlacing, show the depth of thought that must have been given before objects so complete could have been evolved.

Pewter Design - A Knox
Pewter Designs - A Knox
Pewter Design - A Knox
Pewter Design Coffee service - A Knox
Pewter Designs - A Knox
by kind permission of Liberty & Co.


The illustration shows a coffee set, one of the pewter series of designs. Many are the reproductions of this set that have been made. It is to be hoped that one will find its way into a museum to be kept as an example of twentieth century design. The jewellery designs are many, being principally of interlaced forms set with moonstones, opals, and other stones, their charm being — in their harmony of line and change of surface, Celtic in their simplicity, altogether different from anything designed before.

Many of you may know Mr. Knox's illuminated parchments, worthy descendants of the work of the early artists of the west, delicately coloured scripts, containing the qualities of the old work with modern feeling in treatment and form. A number of addresses designed by Mr. Knox remain in Surrey, presented by the Borough of Kingston upon Thames.

As T. E. Brown has given the poetry of your people, so has Mr. Knox given in watercolour the poetry of your skies, shores, and buildings, painted your boats, trees, and bridges, flecked with sunlight and shade as no other man has painted them. If you built a gallery for his work in the centre of your Isle, future generations would bless your name.

To you who possess work by Mr. Knox I say treasure it, and leave it to your Island, that your children's children may learn from it, and produce perhaps, yet greater work.

W. T.
[Winifred Tuckfield — one of founders of Knox Guild of Craft and Design]

Castletown Harbour

On the Lincolnshire coast

From water colours by A Knox



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