Thursday, 22 September 2016

Utility Furniture.

During the Second World War it had become apparent, as early as 1941, that the German U-Boats patrolling the Atlantic were sinking so much of Britain's essential materials that it was difficult to supply the country.
 Even before the war, Britain was never self sufficient in its need for raw materials, such as timber and had a severe lack of indigenous timber suitable for furniture making.
Yet there was still increased demand for new furniture due to the losses caused by bombing and to the continuing establishment of new households after marriage. 
And of course increased war production.

The Utility Furniture Advisory Committee was set up in 1942, drawing on considerable expertise.

Gordon Russell, Ernest Clench, Herman Lebus and John Gloag were brought in because of their experience, to assure that these scarce available resources were used in a sensible way.

Rationing of new furniture was restricted to newly-weds and people who had been bombed out, under the "Domestic Furniture (Control of Manufacture and Supply (No 2)) Order 1942" which became operative from 1 November 1942.

The aim was to ensure the production of strong well-designed furniture making the most efficient use of the recsource of timber available.

The Committee were reconstituted as the Utility Design 

Panel in 1943 with Gordon Russell as Chairman.

The furniture, made during the war, featured a 'CC' 


The symbol was designed by Reginald Shipp. 

The motif is known as two cheeses. 

Along with the two cheeses there should also be 


indicating the year so CC41 stands for 'Controlled 

Commodity 1941'.

It appeared on all sorts of items, furniture, linen, 

clothes and many other domestic items.

The Committee produced a number of approved 

designs, many were published in the Utility Furniture 

Catalogue of 1943.  

Post War

After the second world war the Board of Trade 

took control of furniture production.

They regulated the industry and set out to control manufacture, by law, controlling the use and movement of all materials
Strict specifications were laid down and the Utility Furniture scheme was used to assist production. Or so it was claimed.
Licenses were issued and quite a lot of these were given to companies already in the manufacture of aircraft, and other war supplies.
These companies, it was thought, were able to make furniture in a form of construction that could make light furniture with the use of plywood.
The control of design through meticulous attention to production encompassing good design was laid down through a technical framework.

1945 saw the Directorate of Furniture production transformed.

This became the headquarters of the British Furniture Industry.
Five different sections were divided into the design section.
  1. The Technical section.
  2. A planning section.
  3. A licensing section.
  4. A material issue section.
  5. The design section.

The Utility stamp was brought in as the abolition of priority cases gave way to the needs of the entire community.
This administration of material was used to control the entire manufacturing process until 1948 when this was revoked and a licence was granted to enable the Utility marks to be used generally.
This in theory stopped the government control. 
But in practice raw materials were still given in precedence to those producing for the Utility scheme.
Gradually they would be able to place the mark on their own designs.
The categorisation of articles had to continue and goods sold under a appropriate maximun price.
In 1946, in conjunction with the important exhibition of post-war design, "Britain Can Make It", three new furniture ranges were unveiled (Cotswold, Chiltern and Cockaigne) intended to carry forward the best of their design ethos into the postwar period.

As the names suggests it was a style that was 

looking back to the past more in line with Arts 

and Crafts.

The general public had less money to spend so it became a buyers market. Slowly the furniture industry would return to a normal community.
The theory was that, if efficient companies were chosen to manufacture from the start there may have been less waste. 
But it was thought that this would have been market manipulation and stifle the fledgling industry.

It is hard to envisage today that it was a offence punishable by imprisonment for any company to make a single stick of furniture. This constriction continued for three or four years after the war.
Many with licenses were not the best of manufacturers.
And the old boy network surely came into play.
Buying of timber was forbidden, by law. There was a rationing of timber, and it was also an offence to consume pre-war stock. That's was if it was not requesitioned.
The government control in effect created a black market.
During the war there were only 137 licensed furniture manufacturers in 1943.
This rose to 450 in 1945 out of a total of 4000 companies. 
The remainder were treated as if they did not exist.
A license was required for the manufacture of a coffee table, and this may be given, provided the timber content did not exceed a fraction of a cubic foot. And all calculations were laid down.
Off cuts and stubs had to come from elsewhere as companies could not use their own. 
To make things worse the license could be refused to obtain these off cuts
Purchase tax rose from 33% to over 66% rendering the tables and other pieces virtually unsaleable.
Even if you were lucky enough to pull all the right strings and get it made you would have to be extremely lucky to sell the damn things.
As an example David Joel released from the Navy wanted to get going. His factory had been let for the production of aeroplanes and then sold to a cosmetics company but he had some land at the back of his old workshops that he acquired.
He then had a factory without labour. Then he acquired machinery and was given a list by the Board of Trade of what was needed. These amounted to Fancy goods and Domestic equipment in reality, Ironing boards, rolling pins, blinds, cards and trays.
When a lady from the government turned up he struck up a relationship with her.
She had been a milliner near his Knightsbridge showroom. “neighbourly feelings prevailed and I got my Timber” he was quoted as saying.
It's not what you know of course.
Stafford Cripps had set up a working party in 1945 for the furniture trade. They had constructed bodies for the nationalization but when the government imposed a purchase tax it killed it stone dead.

War kept its grip for a long time after cestation and it was said a malaise crept in.

To make things worse the national stock pile of timber was piled in the open air but still existed in huge quantities in 1951 but the deteriation due to the lack of care led to most of it being worthless.
The mositure content was left uncontrolled while bureaucracy took place and those in the scheme did alright but numerous craftsmen had to change trade through no fault of their own.
This would add another factor to the industry getting back on its feet.
Up until as late as 1948 the supply of Utility furniture was restricted to priority cases.
The intended 'setting free of design' came about but it still took three months of bureaucracy to be able to apply for a license to be able to apply the utility mark.

There was a market for reproduction style furniture and the Utility scheme seemed hardly worth its bulk through design.

The task of creating ingenious design hardly seemed worth it for many companies struggling enough and wanting to, just get on with honest work of giving the public what they wanted. 
There was a black market with carvings added making the design more appropriate and easier for the public to accept.

The cost of shipping and crating was prohibitive to its manufacture.
Still the Development council was engaged in performance tests. 
Chairs had to pass breaking tests along with others. It was all very well to design wear tests but if the timber used was not the right moisture content then it seems pointless.
A chair could withstand any test at manufacture but if it is not properly seasoned it may well fall to pieces in a couple of weeks. The quality it seems had been taken away from the people who understood the task in hand, the craftsmen.

Scandinavian design was held in regard and was possibly a major influence on the post war design. Though it now seems apparent that design was indeed led by cost and the Scandinavian style was not as thick and heavy as the Arts and Crafts inheritance that was prevalent before war broke out.

The scheme was officially closed in 1952, the same year that furniture rationing ceased.

Heals produced Utility furniture as did Gordon Russell.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Jean Bulio Bronze-Piece of the Week.

 Jean Bulio was born in Fabregues in 1827 in the Herault region, South of France.
 It was Montpellier where he died in 1911.
He left behind a good body of work including a bust of Napoleon.
His work had titles such as Venus and Cupid.

 His style was mainly classical which is hardly surprising when he had enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1859. He exhibited a plaster cast that year of Pandora.
 In 1882 and also 1886 he received honorable mentions.

This bronze is unsigned and is only small, being 17cm high but large enough to make it tactile and want to hold it in the hand as many have done before showing a little rubbing at the touch spots allowing a slightly more golden colour to bleed through.

The patina is nice though. It has that chocolate brown colour that almost makes it good enough to eat.

At first glance it looks slightly to one angle but to those with a detailed eye will see that is because the sculptor has made the piece that way. It is as if the player of the pan pipes is just about to leap on to his other foot.
That time where it is most difficult to see and ambitious to create.
He has puffed out his cheeks ready to blow.

 Jean Bulio has gone out of his way and decided to make his piece showing that he understands movement along with anatomy.
 The The Pan Pipe player is draped in a wrap around his torso just enough to give it the feel of plein air, a feeling that the subject being outside and taking part in some form of celebration or maybe even a procession.
He looks Greek and the pipes are often associated with classical Greece. His hair is blowing in the breeze.
He is not a Hercules or a strong man, just a simple musician.
This is a careful study.
I have the same piece in my own collection on a different coloured base. I have had him for fifteen years and have never been able to part with it. Mine is African red marble.
Here we see Belgium slate being used.

See my sculpture section of my website for this and others of a similar style and period.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Is The Liverpool Biennial A Load of Rubbish Or A Valuable Contribution To Liverpool Art.

Now let me think........
Art is supposed to provoke.
 But the work that I have seen this year at the Liverpool Biennial doesn't seem to provoke me, it just pokes me.
Not even right between the eyes it just strokes me into submission and yes, I give up. I surrender.
 It is spread out around the derelict spaces of Liverpool highlighting the disgraceful record that the City Council has on restoring the heritage places that are now rotting away lacking investment decades after the Toxteth riots.
The very same sites that the dodgy Liverpool Council spivs are now placing to their developer friends.
Yes I know they need regeneration.
There seems to be a pattern.
Put an art installation create a load of huff and then give a developer a grant to take it off the council books.
Now I am not saying there is annything wrong with the city council giving land to those lucky enough to know the right I.

There is a art installation around the Welsh streets that I admit I haven't been to. This is because I don't want to see it.
 I don't want to stop the car in Toxteth to see the disappointing workmanship, or whatever you call the installations that are there.
Its not worth my time. I only have to look down the Arcade of India Buildings to see how bad it is.
I just cant be bothered looking at silly things that instead of making me think, I just think, what's the point.
Now I know we need to incubate talent and allow it to grow but the principle is all wrong.
They all wanna be the new L'Enfant terrible with outrageous ideas, the new kids on the block, but there are hardly any of them with any skill at all.
Most of them cant even paint a straight line or even emulsion a wall.
And here they are let loose on the streets of Liverpool...........Really, What a waste of money.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Henry Moore-Or Less.

Henry Moore with his totemic sculptures across the world has been hailed as the greatest British Sculptor creating over 900 sculptures.
 He left thousands of drawings and had 40 exhibitions at the same time, when he was in his 80's.
It was said that he broke down traditions and moved barriers.
 Awards from all directions, honour after honour piled as high as the hills that showed off his work in landscapes near and far.
It was said that he followed the 19th Century sculptors.
 To this I disagree.
 He walked the walk and certainly could talk the talk and his theories were championed by academics and historians. 
The most famous being Kenneth Clark who was indeed a clever man. He understood the principles of design architecture and form and function, so it seems when you listen to his preachings on the subject.
Art is subjective and who would argue with the scholars who proclaimed that Henry Moore was leading us to the promised land of sculpture. 
But what if they were wrong?

He certainly, in my opinion created some rubbish. 
If work cant be questioned for every individual piece then it becomes a 'Henry Moore' or a 'Picasso'.
 He was later given the freedom of the city.
 Born in 1898 in Castleford in Yorkshire.  in a terrace house he was good at pottery and was encouraged by his art teacher. Sunday school morals.
 He said he was inspired at an early age by a story he heard about Michaelangelo (sic) who took advice from a passer by whilst carving in Florence.
I don't recall Michaelangelo creating sculpture theme parks, but there you go.
He had a strict routine starting at 8 with breakfast and then instructing his staff at nine. He would then read the Times. Lunch was important and everyone had a bottle of Guinness one commentator John Read who recorded six programmes about his life said it was a joy to watch him carving a sirloin of beef. “It was one of the small joys in life” he proclaimed in sycophantic admiration.
He had a team of men working for him.
In the court of balding middle aged men he was king. They would hang on his every word.
He taught and loved making films using the television as his medium. Most people who lapped up his words could not even paint a wall such was the lack of practical experience from those that wrote about him.
Most art of primitive form was at the time placed in ethnological sections in museums and was thought of as some crude form or function from the ancient past.
 Then with advent of modern art the likes of Moore with his interpretations of ethnic art it suddenly became clever to cross reference these old cultures and make the new art.

Was he the man who made sculptures with a hole in or did he really understand the figure?
His out of chaos drawings to me are poor at best. He was asked to be a war artist and he took the easy way out. His drawings are bereft of emotion in my opinion. They lack clarity and scale. He said “There stretched out in front of me the rows and rows of reclining figures.
Henry Moore reclining figures.” They are weak sketches at best and a cop out.

He may as well have just sketched a load of sacks in the dark. What credible artist sketches.....sheep. Where is the skill in that?

 John Read says
“It was something of a paradox......... and his greatest single contribution to the art of sculpture was the idea of being able to combine ones feeling of landscape and that of the figure not as two separate things but as one single image he saw the figure as landscape and the landscape as a figure.
Romantic ideas and a romantic tradition of English literature in English paintings combined now in one single body of work.”
Is this rubbish? Is this gobbledegook from a sycophant who could be sold anything?
Does it kid me? No.
I think his feeling of the figure and the landscape being inspired from a rock with a hole in it being turned into a mother and child in bronze now seems absurd. 
Some people will believe anything. And so they did students and tutors followed him. With his every twist and turn of the mallet they bestowed more accolades on him.
More commissions. He littered a remote valley in Scotland with poor quality work that was sucked up by the people to whom he could do no wrong.
I laugh at the King and Queen sitting atop a hill looking out to a Loch.
They lack detail and skill and emotion. The Emperor is not wearing any clothes.
 I would not walk 10 feet to look at these never mind travel hundreds of miles.
They are talked about by educated people in terms of tortured souls. He did a huge cruciform that looks like a giant leg bone.
In a BBC Moniter programme made in 1960 it is easy to see how his images beguiled the masses, well those that could afford a TV in the post war depression era where his sort of people.

Mrs Moore collected Aztec work and filled the house with art. He spoke about the sculptures from the collection with BBC English that made him an acceptable authority.
 He admits that he watched the Moniter programme about Lawrence Durrel.......and suddenly his books meant more to him. He became closer to him.
He shows shapes and bones that inspire the beginnings of his work. There are scores of Mother and Child sculptures some plaster maquettes others cast in bronze.
They are not Madonna and Child though he says there is a distinction. He talks about the Cezanne that kept him awake for three nights trying to decide whether to fork out the monumental amount to purchase it. 
There is a painting in his studio. Bathers Composition. “It gives me tremendous joy to have. Its not perfect it is a sketch but then I don't like absolute perfection, I believe one should make a struggle to something one cant do rather than do the thing you can do easily. It had my kind of figure in it.”

He spoke about dividing up his sculptures and seperating some of his work and how some have more variety than others and that they are a mixture between human form and landscape amalgamating both. He says talking about these reclining figures of 1928 whilst showing photographs. “It is a kind of metaphor, err like in poetry, you would say, err, the mountains skipped like lambs and here the figure is connected with the earth, with rocks mountains, metaphor.
He was given the Order of Merit.
 His sculpture Atom Piece, in my opinion, implodes so much on itself that it should be renamed Damp Squib. Yet he still kept up the charade and he went to quarry Carrera marble from the same place Michaelangelo got his.
He then ruined a good bit of rock with a carving that is so beneath any reference to the great man.
I am sure he would not have been allowed to carve a toenail of a work by the Michaelangelo. 
He would not even be allowed the job of polishing Michelangelo shoes he was not skilled enough.
He chose the marble and thought, wrongly, that he was fulfilling his destiny.

Yet the TV programmes kept on coming. Kenneth Clark was a collector of his work....hugely discounted for sure, so it was definitely in his interests to mention his in his epic series Civilization.
He was invited by the Mayor of Florence to display work. 400,000 people went to the outdoor exhibition and the faith of the Mayor was vindicated. 
No doubt tourism increased and it became the most talked about exhibition of the year. What would Vasari have said about his uneasy figures set against Brunellesci Dome. Florence with Museums full of works by Botticelli.
The Florentine public took it to their heart.
Oval with points now looks a childish gimmick and his bronze crucifiction form, a version of his Scottish mountain weighed heavily along side a King and Queen 1952, another version, or edition.

Square Form With Cut 1970 made from Carrera marble. Michaelangelo would be turning in his grave.
Retrospectives continued year after year.
Then he turned to drawing sheep. I tried reading a book illustrated with his sheep once .....….and I fell asleep.
 He talks about understanding the skeleton of a sheep.
Why did he not draw from life the human form the biggest test. 
You wouldn't want to draw a fat man with a woolly jumper on, would you?
I think he was a fashion item in a new age. 
But I don't think he has worn well and I fear to say what is wrong with his work after so many scholars and writers have poured praise on his creations without searching thier own souls..
Stolen and sold for scrap
The value of Moore’s Reclining Figure was also low in the eyes of the thieves who stole a different cast of the same sculpture in December 2005. When it was filched from the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, police initially feared that the sculpture had been stolen to order. Further investigations suggested, however, that it had been taken by a team of traveller who sold the work as scrap metal. The two-tonne Reclining Figure was worth £3 million, but melted down it would only have been worth £1,500.

The real legacy is that he helped create a new generation of sculptors such as Arthur Dooley that did not need to understand the anatomical form that had shaped the world of art for centuries.
 He gave an opportunity to a generation that did not require the talent or meticulous study of the human form.
 Anyone could now, get away with amateurism that claimed it provoked an emotion. 

Well, I hear you say, that is good. But not at the expense of craftsmanship I reply.

There are some works by Moore that I like. Sometimes it works. But really.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hillsborough Verdicts-Liverpool Fans Vindicated.....After 27 Years.

With the verdicts of Unlawful Killing delivered today in Warrington at The Hillsborough Enquiry, this is the beginning, of a full vindication for the people of Liverpool. 
Jury finds that Liverpool fans behaviour did not contribute to disaster.

David Duckenfield is, a walking conscience, that has caused misery to so many people. 
Should he go to jail for what his lies?
The way that the good name of the people of  Liverpool has been sullied is starting to become fully understood and will now become common currency. 

And with the verdict, some of those old stereotypes will be lost. 
The reasons for anger and despair from those tough working class masses with relatives at Hillsborough that fateful day, that just wanted to show their pride for their city by supporting their team will now become self evident, that they were not to blame. 
The anger that came about and was shown against the establishment will now be understood and it has now been proved that the tarnished brush with which this sad affair was painted came from the very top, in cover up, after despicable cover up.
And those, some who have been campaigning and fighting for half of their lives will be applauded for never giving up, to clear the name of the 96 and the bad name of my city.
There will be those who will never understand the anticipation of a game, that they had looked forward to all week.
How someone could need to beg steal or borrow to get to the match. It was their lives.
Some had a reason to live, some to escape the daily rigours, just for a couple of hours. 
A couple of hours of watching the team play the beautiful game, the game of football, that game from childhood dreams, and comic book strips of Roy of the Rovers, of  Hero's who would save the day. 
Save the pride.
 The pride they took away from us on that fateful day for their team. 
We all knew someone who was there, might have been there or should have been. 
I haven't cried so much over anything every anniversary was the same. 
 And they sullied our name of our dead and they called us animals by default, and they trod our name into the ground and they insulted the dead. 
And the dead rose through the spirits of the living. 
Those who loved them would never let their names die in vain and they have kept on fighting, when there was no money, no hope, no chance. 
And to the top rose new hero's and heroines who would not give in. 
By stealth and cunning and regret they kept on going for the names of their loved ones and the name of our town.
 And the town knew that, and they give them support and the ranks grew and in dignity they got their day in court for a form of apology from the lying establishment. 
And what of David Duckensfield the one who we should have been able to trust....the police.

Its only a game. 
No its more serious that that Bill Shankly once said. 
Its life and death. This was that.
 And in death they gave us life to take on the establishment of dodgy bent coppers and political cover ups at the highest level. 
There is a good reason why some people hated Margaret Thatcher and its Tory cling on's like the misguided Boris Johnson with his past disparaging remarks. 

They conspired against us and they could never understand that we could not let that happen. 
The bereaved relatives fought for all of us.
                                               So we supported them.

         We should now find that the cover up went right up the ladder.

      Today is a good day for Justice and those who died will be vindicated.
                                   YOU WILL NEVER WALK ALONE.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Archibald Knox-And The Liberty Style. The History of A Sceptred Isle.

Archibald Knox has for some time been recognised as one of the countries most influential designers who worked predominantly for the company Liberty & Co.
The famous shop in Regent Street would become an international focus of art, design, and good taste. Its founder would shape art history through the wares that he sold.
Knox helped to create the Celtic revival.
In Italy Style Liberty is the term generally used to describe Art Nouveau, such was its reputation.
Though England would help shape the worlds art through the thought process best exemplified by John Ruskin and William Morris on the continent the inspirational work of Viollet-le-Duc would also help give birth to a movement that had more freedom.
The restraint that developed in Britain steered the public away from the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose Glasgow School of Art was sneered at as out of date when completed. On the continent he helped inspire a generation of artists and designers such as Joseph Hoffman as head of The Wiemer Werkstatte.
In Europe the freedom to express forged a more liberated version of art Nouveau.
The term Art Nouveau, French for new art was the name of the shop opened by Samuel Bing that was a direct influence from the Liberty & Co store.
The Celtic style would remain popular for a generation and the man who was to do more to drive it forward would be Archibald Knox.
Knox was born 1864 Cronkbourne (Tromode) Isle of Man. His father was an engineer and he was expected to follow the family tradition. He felt isolated amidst the pressure to, like his brothers join the family firm. Robert Knox was concerned about his sons use of the pencil complaining “Why he doesn't even know how to hold a hammer”.
At an early age he lost the top of his index finger and was happy to sketch and draw.
He was surrounded with Ornament of a Celtic nature, he would be sure to be influenced by this.
Owen Jones Grammar of Ornament would be published in 1856 and would hold a section on Celtic ornament.
Principles of Ornament would be outlined by Christopher Dresser in 1876 in his volume Studies in Design.
He attended St Barnabas Elementary School and then Douglas Grammar School both in Douglas becoming a pupil teacher 1878-1883.
In 1887 he passed the examination in 'Design' with a first class result in 'Principles of Ornament and went on to achieve a Art Masters Certificate in 1889
In 1893 he published an article in 'The Builder' entitled 'Ancient Crosses in The Isle Of Man'. He was possibly working in the offices of the architect and designer M.H. Baillie Scott until 1896.
He left Isle of Man in 1897 to take up a teaching post at Redhill Surrey.
Knox contacted the firm of Liberty possibly through his association with Baillie Scott who had been designing fabrics for the company from as early as 1893.
He became design master at the art School Kingston-upon-Thames in 1899 the same year as the first Cymric patterns became available in the Liberty store.
In 1900 the same year as he purchased a cottage at Sulby on the Isle of Man the cheaper Tudric range was introduced in direct competition to the continental manufacturers. Knox submitted several of piece meal designs.
He would live close to Christopher Dresser who designed, indirectly for Liberty.
1903 sees Liberty taking part in the Arts and Crafts Exhibition with four items by Knox.
By 1904 he was submitting huge amounts of designs for Silver, Pewter, carpets, pottery, jewellery, textiles and possibly furniture to Liberty's. While still teaching at Kingston-upon-Thames. In 1904 he was appointed principle at Wimbledon.
In 1909 Liberty & Co sold several designs to their competitors James Connell.
South Kensington Examiners complain about Knox's style of teaching which he rejects and resigns.
One of the pupils pull out a bunch of designs in a waste-paper basket in Kingston Art School and save them. These are now in the V&A.
Denise and Winifred Tuckfield along with six other students leave in disgust at the acceptance of Knox resignation.
He returned to The Isle of Man in 1912 but on the 21st august that year left for Philadelphia from Liverpool on a schooner named Dominion. He failed to find suitable employment though he taught for a while in Pennsylvania School of Industrial arts. In a letter to Denise Tuckfield he states misgivings about the Renaissance architecture that made up the city. A style of architecture he did not like. 'Renaissance architecture is a scholars work-Gothic is work done by a man of sentiment and feeling'. He would say.
He had carried a letter of introduction from Arthur Lazenby Liberty which no doubt helped him secure work with Bromley and Co designing carpets.
He also carried with him Liberty catalogues and his work was recognised. Though in the letter to Ms Tuckfield he states that one firm called it the art of the drug store.
He moved to New York. In 1913 he returned to Isle of Man.
He taught at the Aliens Detention camp there and served as a censor during the war.
In 1917 Arthur Lazenby Liberty died. Knox designed his memorial stone at The Lee Church in Buckinghamshire.
1920 sees him teaching art at Douglas High school and he also travels to Italy to study frescoes.
He held a one man exhibition in Ottawa Canada of his paintings.
In 1933 he died suddenly and was buried at the age of 69 in Braddon Cemetery Isle of Man.

The Knox designs held in the V&A have long thought to be the rejected designs.
Knox designs have long held an attribution based on elements of design known to be by Knox's own hand.
There is a formula to the work of Knox he would take a rough sketch and rework it over and over again and eventually the Celtic interlacing would appear as if through a fog of smudges and marks. This a very interesting way to work it almost feels mystical. When the work was coming to life with smudges and all and parts of the paper rubbed out with grey lines all over the paper, a transfer was taken by tracing the design using a sharpened lead pencil.
Where semi precious stones were to be placed would often be highlighted with watercolour.
The designs would be annotated with shape size and details such as stones and enamels.
Numbers that were intended to relate to the grouping of several pieces in sequence maybe to be used as a unit such as a tray to be combined with a tea service.
Knox kept a stock book detailing which designs Liberty & Co actually purchased.
The majority of the designs held in the V&A collection were intended for the Cymric range of metalwork.
By 1900 the output was catching up with design and what had been happening on the continent with pewter was put into practice.
Lazenby Liberty had acquired the designs for several competition winners held by The Studio magazine. There was a rule that the purchase of the design could not be purchased for more than the prize money won.
At this stage the numbers are not up to 50 and the Tea Caddy design from the Studio by Tramp (David Veazey). The design for a tankard by ' Parnassus' Charlotte E. Elliot, 111 Chatham Street Liverpool has the number 049.

Rivet as much as you can;
Don't countersink the rivets;
Give them a firm head so they may have a firm grip;
complete them that they cannot hold dirt;
Give them desired form; they are sin clipped:
Flattened too obviously.
He would proclaim to his pupils.
With the pewter range there was no need for riveting in the moulded production and it seems that this is intended for silver work.
The discarded drawings were from 1911-12 when they were binned when he stormed out of his position at Kingston.
So it is by attribution that we put many designs as the work of Knox and Liberty was adamant that the name Liberty & Co would be the only attribution that would appear on the work.
Though the Cymric and Tudric pewter wares are widely known to be by Knox.
Most of the Liberty & Co archives were destroyed by enemy bombing during the war.
That said the Celtic revival that Archibald Knox helped to bring to the masses leaves him placed as one of the most influential designers of the Arts and Crafts period.

The students who walked out from Kingston now formed the 'Knox Guild of Craft and Design' and set up premises at 24 Market St Kingston. He supervised and attended several exhibitions and showed his rarely viewed watercolours.
They exhibited at the 1924 exhibition hall not only work but set up looms and other equipment.
Denise Wren (nee Tuckfield) continued with designs at Oxshott Pottery which is still run today by her daughter Rosemary. Her designs of 1913 show direct reference to the principles of design laid down by her mentor and do look familiar in style. She also designed alphabet that look as if it could have been made at the hand of Archibald Knox.
Liberty sold designs attributed to Knox that were manufactured at the Watts Pottery, Compton.
Most of his work was attributed to Liberty under the usual format.
He seems to have been an unassuming character who would not have minded preferring to be part of something much bigger.

He leaves us a legacy that helped to form the Celtic spirit and the history of its artistic presence in these isles that now too becomes a part of its recent history to inspire further generations in the not too distant future.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Christopher 'Kit' Wood-A Life Wasted? Or An Inspiration To Others?

Christopher “Kit” Wood. Left Liverpool at the age of 19 and proclaimed that he would become the greatest painter the world had ever seen. He had £14 in his pocket.
He was born in Huyton, then in the countryside near Liverpool.
He was sent to boarding school in Malvern at an early age.
He had been interested in medicine and architecture at Liverpool University where he met the painter Augustus John who was then teaching there.
He arrived in Paris in March 1921 at the invitation of the collector Alphonse Kahn.
There he studied at the Academie Julian where he met many of the worlds soon to be famous painters.
He was bisexual.
Paris was the modern city and the capital of art.
Rules had been broken and the intellectual way of painting had arrived decades earlier. 
'Kit' got some bad habits, such as Opium which may have been introduced to him by his rich Playboy lover, Antonio de Gandarillas
His addiction would greatly hinder him.
“My brain is working too hard, he said, and I don't know where the end will come, I work so hard and produce nothing whatsoever to satisfy me”
In Feb 1927 none other than Picasso recommended that Kit design the set for Serg Dagliev's Romeo and Juliet at Theatre Du Chatelet.
It was a disaster. As Dagliev had a blazing row with him and he was sacked.
In 1927 his plans to elope and marry heiress Meraud Guinness were frustrated by her parents whereupon he required emotional support from Winifred Nicholson.

Despondent but with fresh ideas swimming around in his head he headed for Cornwall. His mother was Cornish.
 In the summer of 1928 Kit joined Ben Nicholson on Sunday 26th August for a sketching trip to St Ives.
 He had high hopes on the English Riviera. 
They headed for Porthmeor beach and painted.
After a successful day spent painting they packed up and set for home

Then something happened that would change both their lives 
There in a small cottage with an open door they both peered in and in a room full of paintings.

 They had discovered the work of Alfred Wallis. 

The naivety was an inspiration and Kit stayed on for the autumn, renting a place closed to Wallis.

Nicholson went back to London to spread the word of the encounter as if the Messiah had arrived. 
“If I am here long enough, he said I am going to paint good things”. Kit said.

He began to paint scenes inspired by the Cornish Coast with its fresh light.
Had he finally found the inspiration he desired. Cocteau who said he was an exceptional painter, now meant nothing to him.
He started painting inspired by Wallis who he visited every day, but the hallucinogenic addiction that he had to Opium was preying on him.
He became paranoid and began to lose his mind painting some sinister scenes in what would be some of his last works.
Wallis opened up a spirit in him and his work was beginning to bear fruit. 
He felt as if he belonged to the light of the coast of St Ives.

Wallis became a cult recording the decline of the fishing industry in his own silly way that seems to have conjured up dreamlike sequences for aspiring artists who now flocked there. Wallis painted on anything he could find and he was free not having had any training. 
He was poor and in 1890 after chasing shoals of fish out in the deep sea. He painted from memory and his perspective is very strange indeed, but it was this charming naivety that the new modern artists adored.
Kits work then took on a paranoid sense of his own gloom laden opium twisted senses.
In 1929 he held a solo exhibition at Tooths Gallery in Bond Street.
 He met Lucy Wertheim there, she would become a supporter of his.
"I know that my future as a painter from now on will be bound up with your own, and I shall become great through you!" He would say to her.
In May 1930 he had a largely unsuccessful exhibition with Nicholson in Paris. In June and July he made a second trip to Brittany to create new work.
 Later in July Lucy travelled to meet Kit in Paris, to choose the paintings for a one-man show that would be the opening exhibition at her new Wertheim Gallery in October.
While discussing the exhibition over lunch the day after her arrival, Wood issued her with an ultimatum: "'I want you to promise to guarantee me twelve hundred pounds a year from the time of my exhibition, one hundred pounds a month being the least I can live on. If I can't have this sum I've made up my mind to shoot myself'".
 When she complained, he begged her forgiveness, and they went to review the paintings again.

On 21st august 1930 Kit met his mother for Lunch in Salisbury and then through himself under a train. He was 29.
This was reported as an accident.
Following his death the show was cancelled; it was eventually staged as a memorial show at a different gallery in 1931.
He was buried in the churchyard of All Saints Church in Broad Chalke.
 His gravestone was carved by the sculptor Eric Gill.

Alfred Wallis.
An ex fisherman he retired from the sea in 1890 and opened a marine supply store.
When his wife died in the 1920's he began to paint.
 Little did he know that his melancholy would inspire a generation.
He was naïve alright and poor he painted on anything he could get his hands on.
He had no idea about perspective and his subliminal thoughts began to show through and inspire others. He would say that he painted out of his mind as it was.
Wallis was sent to a madhouse as he was chased by ghosts. He died a celebrity amongst the artists and he was entombed by Bernard Leach who erected his epitaph.
The art community came to pay its respects.