- Museum number
Sugar-bowl, pewter, from complete set comprising coffee pot, tea pot, milk jug, sugar bowl and tray; cast and hand-finished pewter; one handle; interlace ornament in relief of stylised honesty plants.
- Production date
1904-1926 (made between)
Height: 6.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- In set with 1980,0511.1-5
Text from J. Rudoe, 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950. A catalogue of the British Museum collection'. 2nd ed. no.134d.
After studying and teaching at the School of Art in Douglas, Isle of Man, Knox settled in London in 1897. It has been suggested (Tilbrook, A.J., 'The Designs of Archibald Knox for Liberty & Co.', London 1976, 37) that he may have made contact with Liberty through the architect M.H. Baillie Scott, who was then practising in Douglas and had designed for the firm since 1893. Knox went back to the Isle of Man in 1900, supplying several designs to Liberty's from there, and returned to London in 1904. He continued to supply designs to Liberty while teaching as Head of Design at Kingston School of Art. It is unlikely that he supplied many designs after 1909, when Liberty designs were sold to the rival firm of Connell of Cheapside. In 1912 Knox resigned from Kingston, returning to teach in Douglas for the rest of his life
Liberty's had been importing German pewter wares by the firms of J.P. Kayser & Sons of Krefeld, W. Scherf of Nuremberg and others since about 1896. The success of these wares encouraged Arthur Lasenby Liberty to work on the production of his own modern pewter range from the late 1890s (Tilbrook, 63-7). However, Max Haseler, son of W.H. Haseler, claimed that it was the Elizabethan pewter purchased by his father from the painter and antiquary Oliver Baker that inspired the launching in 1901 of the new range (Bury, S., 'New Light on the Liberty's metalwork venture', Bulletin of the Decorative Arts Society 1890-1940, no.1, 1977, 18), sold under the trade name 'Tudric' (see 'Decorative Arts 1850-1950', Cat. 133).
Liberty, in his article on the revival of pewter for the Journal of the Society of Arts in 1904, illustrated this tray (p. 636), describing it as 'Tray with grip hands. Designed with hollow rim to give additional strength'. He illustrated several Knox designs in his article, along with contemporary German pewter, mostly Kayserzinn, but neither Knox's name, nor those of the German designers, are ever mentioned, in accordance with Liberty's policy of anonymity.
The teaset appears in Liberty catalogue no. 97, Yule-Tide Gifts, 1904, 37. For the complete service, with hot-water pot, see London 1975, Victoria and Albert Museum, 'Liberty's 1875-1975', c 176 A-F and Levy, M., 'Liberty Style', London 1986, 12.
That the 'Liberty style' enjoyed much success on the Continent is in large part due to Knox's bold interpretation of continental Art Nouveau combined with the use of Celtic ornament and interlace. Knox is exceptional among British designers in his absorption of continental Art Nouveau. For further discussion of Knox's designs for Liberty, see Morris, B. 'Liberty Design 1874-1914', London 1989, chapter 4.
- On display (G48/dc1)
- Exhibition history
2016 11 Mar- 25 Sep, Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, Celts.
2015-2016 24 Sep-31 Jan, London, BM, G30, 'Celts: Art and Identity'
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number