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Knox, Archibald - Designer for Liberty and Company (1864-1933)

Cultural Group :

Their designer was Archibald Knox, born to a Scottish family on the Isle of Man, where he was raised and later studied at the Douglas School of Art. Knox studied Celtic and Runic monuments both in Ireland and on the Isle of Man, and as a designer his Celtic heritage would be given full expression in the late nineteenth-century art movement known as the Celtic art revival.24 He moved to London in 1897 and began designing for Liberty & Co., the prestigious Regent Street emporium that catered to the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts lifestyle with fashionable clothing, furniture, and decorative arts such as clocks, jewelry, vases, textiles, and wallpapers.25
Knox first designed for the Cymric collection, such as these works in silver that feature traditional Celtic artwork. In many ways the designs recall a British art heritage going as far back as pre-Roman times, seen here in the Battersea Shield, created circa 350 BC. Liberty's silver Cymric designs were registered by around 1900, followed by the Tudric pewter designs in 1903.26 The Tudric line was similar to the familiar Cymric forms, but instead featured floral and plant designs, and worked in a more affordable metal – pewter. Both lines offered variations on the plain metals with insets of blue or green enamel, or sometimes opal.
Pewter is a malleable metal alloy, consisting mostly of tin with other metals like copper and sometimes lead. Tudric pewter was known as “poor man's silver” as it approximated the more expensive Cymric designs, ingeniously replacing the lead content in the pewter with a small amount of silver and so achieving a comparable lustre at a price affordable to the growing middle class. If we examine the underside of the base, we can see the identifying Liberty Tudric mark and the model number, 01161. The Solket's mark also tells us that it was made by W.H. Haseler's of Birmingham, who manufactured both silver and pewter Liberty products under this name.27 Four-digit Liberty numbers preceded by a zero are the earliest pieces, after 1903; five- digit numbers preceded by a zero approach those made in the 1920s, including both new designs and those repeating earlier successful designs with some modifications, as this piece must be, as Archibald Knox's pewter period peaked in 1905.28One of the most prodigious of Liberty’s designers, Knox would go on to create over 400 designs for carpets, fabrics and metalwork between 1904 and 1912.29 He divided his time between teaching and designing until his death in 1933, but was never really accorded the artistic recognition that he holds today. A major reason was the Liberty company policy of “blanket anonymity” of all its designers' and artisans' work under the single Liberty brand.30 While it made Arthur Lasenby Liberty one of the leading names in British design prior to World War I, itmeans that only today is Archibald Knox receiving the recognition he deserves for creating these beautiful pieces that celebrated his rich cultural heritage and created a British Art Nouveau.

24 John Mawer. “Knox, Archibald.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 10 Feb.
2015. . 25 Adrian J. Tilbrook, The Designs of Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co., (London: Ornament Press, 1976), 54. 26 Tilbrook, The Designs of Archibald Knox, 47. 27 In silver marks, the town mark (e.g. an anchor for Birmingham, a leopard's head for London), is followed by the
silver mark (the lion passant) and the date letter. These are preceded by the maker's mark. Pewter is more complicated; the number usually distinguishes the specific mould, model or design. See Lon R. Shelby, et al. “Marks [Metalwork],” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. .
28 Levy, Liberty Style, 120. 29 Mawer. “Knox, Archibald.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 30 Tilbrook, The Designs of Archibald Knox, 37,39.