Archibald Knox while not very well known was a key figure in the England's Art Nouveau movement, his Norse and Celtic inspired designs are the basis for the work of many other artists. Knox was a man of many talents, not only as a designer for Liberty's, but also as a painter, school teacher, illustrator and architect.
Archibald Knox was born on April 2 1864 at Tromode (Douglas), Isle of Man. As a child Knox attended St Barnabas Elementary and Grammar School, Douglas, Isle of Man before attending the Douglas School of Art. Encouraged by his headmaster, a noted archaeologist, he became fascinated by the Island's ancient Celtic and Norse carved crosses, and their complex interlace patterns were to remain a seminal influence for the rest of his life.
In 1878 Knox began attending the Douglas School of Art on the Isle of Man. While attending the Douglas School Knox returned to teach at St. Barnabas. As a student Knox was superb pupil, at the head of his class. After passing his exams he stayed on at the Douglas school, teaching art and working towards a Master's Certificate. On the 21st of December 1889 Archibald Knox gained his Master's Certificate in design.
After the Douglas School Knox began working part-time for M. H. Baillie Scott, Architect/Designer, Isle of Man. Even after the Douglas School Archibald continued to take an interest in archeology, traveling the Manx countryside sketchbook in hand. Publishing "Isle of Man as a Sketching Ground" in The Studio. Although he is most known for his designs for Liberty's, his watercolors and pencil sketches are also quite spectacular, beautiful renditions of the Isle of Man that capture the spirit of the sea, people and history. His paintings hang in British and American museums and hang in many private homes.
Apparently Knox began to tire of his beautiful home, leaving the island in 1897 for a teaching post at Redhill in London. In London Knox began designing for Liberty & Co., He probably contacted them through Scott who had been designing fabrics for them since 1893. Almost immediately Knox was given his own line of silver, jewelry and plate; and possibly even experimental pewter production. Knox was given world recognition at the 1899 Arts & Crafts exhibition where liberty"s showcased his Cymric line of silverware and plate.
In 1900 Archibald decides to leave Redhill for a teaching position in Fulham for the Surrey County Council. An article in September's Queen magazine, features a Knox designed chalice. In December Knox moves back to the Isle of Man to a cottage in Sulby. Almost immediately after returning to the Isle of Man, Liberty & Co. introduced Knox's Tudric line of pewter ware. Both of Liberty's Knox designed lines featured his Celtic and Norse influences with their complex interlace patterns. Even though Knox submitted designs on a piecework basis, his involvement with the whole Liberty Celtic revival, must have been much greater.
In 1903 the world once again took notice of Knox when Liberty &Co took part in the 1903 Arts & Crafts Exhibition. Four items from Knox's Tudric line were featured. Later that year a second article in Queen illustrates two items of pewter and mentions the trade name Tudric. After the fair Knox continued to submit designs to Liberty ranging from ideas for silver, pewter, carpets pottery, jewelry, textiles and possibly furniture. In 1909 Knox once again leaves the Isle of Man to teach at the Kingston School of Art, he taught there until 1912 when examiners complained about the style and outcome of his teachings, he resigned and returns to the Isle of Man.
Shortly after returning to the Isle of Man Knox leaves for Philadelphia to found the "Knox Guild of Craft & Design". While in Philadelphia, Knox designed carpets for Bromley & Co. Knox also taught at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Arts but couldn't get a satisfactory position. After unsuccessfully trying his chance in New York, he returned to the Isle of Man and commenced teaching. During WW1 he worked as a censor in the Aliens' Detention Camp at Knockaloe, near Peat, Isle of Man.
After the war he returned to teaching on the Isle of Man. In 1920 he designed the designed the memorial erected in memory of Arthur Lasenby Liberty. On February of the same year he began teaching art at Douglas High School. In 1924 he visited Italy to study frescos, spending his summer in Ravenna. Throughout this time Knox continued to paint and draw and in 1926 he was featured in a one-man exhibition of paintings in the National Gallery of Ottawa, Canada. In 1927 he left Douglas High School to teach at Douglas High School for Girls.
On February 22, 1933 Archibald Knox died of heart failure at the age of 69. All through his life Knox not only shaped an entire movement he did something far greater; he taught art and passed his knowledge and ideas on to 2 or 3 generations of people, some future artists others businessmen or housewives, trades people or even politicians. Chances are he influenced the person that made the piece of Gothic jewelry you're wearing right now, that's his greatest legacy. Archibald Knox a man of many talents, from Manx schoolteacher to Liberty's designer.
Visits to the Liberty & Co. Galleries, London
Visits to the Tate Gallery, Bankside
Archibald Knox by Stephen A. Martin