Archibald Knox was born in the Isle of Man of Scottish parenthood. His designs were synonymous with British Art Nouveau and he is regarded as being a prominent influence in the Arts and Crafts movement. His Celtic designs and calligraphy are world famous and iconic in the Isle of Man. Today both his art work for Liberty & Co and his watercolours are highly sought after.

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Celtic Designs

 

V&A Description

Measurements: Width. 21.5 cm (8. 5/8 inches), Height 11.2 cm (4. 1/2 inches), Depth 13 cm (5. 1/4 inches).

Casket, probably intended as a cigar box, Birmingham, W.H.Hasler hallmark for 1903-04; maker's mark of Liberty & Co (Cymric) Ltd. Designed by Archibald Knox.

Silver casket of rectangular form; wooden cedarwood lining with two interior partitions. The front half of the hinged lid embossed with an interlacing design which runs down over the front of the body and on to the front half of each side. The lid set with a large opal in a heart shaped mount. Smaller cabochon opals in the front and on each of the sides. Knox's Celtic ornamentation was so crisply- defined that most of his designs might be die-struck.

Knox and his colleagues whether they be his fellow designers at the Silver Studio or the Liberty management who gave their undoubted support, had moved the Arts and Crafts stylistic principles one stage further forward and in so doing, had created a distinctive British version of Art Nouveau?

V&A

Ref:
Catalogue of the Liberty's Centenary exhibition 1975
Stephen Martin p 242

Exhibitions:
Birmingham Gold and Silver 1773-1973
English Silver 16th - 20th c. Moscow/Leningrad 1978
Belgrade 1980
Montreal 1995

The story of the Silver Box is recalled by Rosemary Wren (daughter of Denise and Henry Wren founding members of the Knox Guild of Design and Craft 1912). Rosemary Wren was patron of the Archibald Knox Society. She died in  2013  RIP

The Silver Box is displayed resplendent in its shatterproof glass at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and I marvel to think that for quite a few years it lived quite casually in our Big Room amongst an assorted collection of personal treasures, occasionally even cleaned by me, and its mystic flashing fire in the depths of the opal matrix shown off to suitable visitors'?

Rosemary accounts how her mother visited Arthur Lasenby Liberty's home, she describes his office as follows

My mother was shown into a huge room with a beautiful white carpet, an elegant white Persian cat sat in front of a great wood fire, a huge and elegant desk with a distinguished-looking man behind it and on the desk a wonderful silver cigar box enriched with opals, obviously designed by Archibald Knox?

Many years later, around 1950,1 my mother having saved up £402 to buy herself a new bed, went past Liberty's on the way, as she always did. To her astonishment, there was the silver box, definitely the same one with the opals, displayed in the window for sale, even more surprisingly, beside it was a price of £40! Somewhat bemused, she rushed into the shop, found it was perfectly true and of course bought it there and then, bearing it home to Potterscroft in triumph.

In 1968 the silver box was valued by Sotheby & Co at £500

In 1970 the silver box was purchased by the V&A for a sum of £650.

1 1953

2 The receipt from Liberty's indicate that the amount paid for the silver box was in fact £30, (V&A archives)

 

Correspondence Address: The Archibald Knox Society, 36 Hutchinson Square, Douglas, Isle of Man, British Isles, IM2 4HWE
mail: info@archibaldknoxsociety.com
Tel: +44 (0)1624 665459
Registered Charity No. 983 (Isle of Man) Registered Company Number: 118177C
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