22 Apr 2021

Archibald Knox (1864 – 1933) was a gifted artist and craftsman, most famous for his work with the Liberty Arts and Crafts furniture company. The creative force behind their famous Cymric and Tudric Celtic Revival ware (for which he received no recognition in his lifetime) he was responsible for many of the Art Nouveau designs gracing antique desks and cabinets today.

Archibald Knox was born at Cronkbourne, on the Isle of Man, the son of William Knox, a successful Scottish engineer. He studied at the Douglas School of Art, and then began teaching the subject, receiving his Art Master’s Certificate in 1889.

A spiritual, solitary man, Knox had a profound understanding of the Manx landscape. He was greatly influenced by the intertwined designs on the island’s Celtic stone crosses, and the “Celtic Knot” became Knox’s trademark, featuring on everything from carpets to jewellery. He was also fascinated by Celtic illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells, interpreting the interwoven vines and stylised animals, leaves and birds into modified forms that would later become trademarks of the English Art Nouveau movement.

Knox came under the scrutiny of the architect M.H. Baillie Scott, who persuaded him to move to the English mainland. He began teaching at the Redhill School of Art, in Surrey, coming under the guidance of Christopher Dresser, a distinguished silverware and ceramics designer. Knox then began working at Liberty of London , creating silverware, pewterware and jewellery – including his famous Tudric and Cymric pieces. He also designed ceramics, garden ornaments, carpets and textiles; his fabric designs appearing on antique dining chairs of the period. He ended his contract with Liberty in 1912, spending a year in America before returning to the Isle of Man, where he lived as an artist recluse until his death.

Knox was held in extremely high esteem by Liberty, who commissioned him to design Arthur Lasenby Liberty’s headstone after his death in 1917. Today, Knox’s inkwells, decanters and silverware make perfect accessories for the antique cabinets and desks of the Art Nouveau period.

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