Early life

Archibald Knox (April 9, 1864 in Cronkbourne near Tromode, Isle of Man – February 22, 1933 in Douglas, Isle of Man), was a Manx designer of Scottish descent. The Knoxs' 5th child, he started his schooling at St Barnabas Elementary School and then attended Douglas Grammar School. At the age of 16 in 1880 Knox enrolled at the newly-opened and innovative Douglas School of Art. The students there considered themselves 'venturesome modernists'. In 1889 Knox was awarded his Art Master's Certificate. During his youth Knox developed a lifelong interest in Celtic art, particularly the carved Celtic and Norse stone crosses on the Isle of Man which date from c. 500 AD to c.1200 AD. In 1893 The Builder published Knox's article, 'Ancient Crosses in the Isle of Man'.

 

Design

Knox starting teaching at Douglas School of Art in 1884, while still a student. In 1896 or 1897 Knox was working for / studying with the pioneering designer Christopher Dresser in London. In 1897 he started teaching at Redhill School of Art where his friend A. J. Collister was principal, leaving with him for the Kingston School of Art in 1899. In 1897 Knox also began designing for the Silver Studio. Then, from 1900 to 1904 Knox returned to the Isle of Man, and produced over 400 designs directly for Liberty of London. 

Knox was Liberty's primary designer at the height of their success and influence upon UK and International design (to the extent that in Italy, Art Nouveau was known as Stile Liberty). Knox's hundreds of designs for Liberty made his style widely known, though not his name, as Liberty kept their designers anonymous. Most of his work for Liberty was for the Tudric (pewter) and Cymric (precious metals) ranges. The gravestone of Liberty founder, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, was designed by Knox. 

His design talent covered a wide range of objects, ornamental and utilitarian, and included silver and pewter tea sets, jewellery, inkwells, boxes, gravestones, watercolours, graphic designs, calligraphy, a house design, fonts and even bank cheques.

He returned to teach at Kingston Art School, again following his friend A. J. CollisterKnox resigned from his post as Head of Design at Kingston School of Art in 1912 following criticism of his teaching. About twenty of his students also quit and set up the Knox Guild of Design and Crafts. Knox was the Master of the Guild and would return to Kingston to exhibit with them. In 1913 he spent a year in the United States, and on his return to Man acted as a censor of internees' letters during World War I. In 1919, after the War, he again took up teaching art at some of the Isle of Man's schools until his death. Knox also produced a variety of design work on the Island for publications, illuminations, and gravestones.

 

Legacy

Knox's great late work was an illuminated manuscript titled 'The Deer's Cry'. Each page is a complex interlaced illumination of a line of the prayer known as 'The Deer's Cry' or 'Saint Patrick's Breastplate'. The style, imagery, and colouring of each page reflects the content of each line of the prayer. 

Knox died of heart failure in 1933 and was buried in Braddan Cemetery. His epitaph reads "Archibald Knox. Artist. A humble servant of God in the ministry of the beautiful".

Cadran Cottage, Ballanard Road in Douglas, remodelled c.1910 with design by Knox, was listed as a Registered Building of the Isle of Man in 1996. The word Cadran means quadrant on a sundial.

The first international touring exhibition of Knox's work was in 1996-1998.

The Archibald Knox Society was founded in 2006. The aim of the Society is the education of the public worldwide in relation to all matters concerning the legacy of Knox. To this end the Society has given lectures, (including an international tour), published journals and helped to organise exhibitions.

An exhibition exploring the work of Knox and his Celtic contemporaries ("Celtic Style") was held at the House of Manannan, Peel, Isle of Man. A commemorative concert was held at Peel Cathedral featuring newly composed harp music and also including Manx Gaelic choir music. An exhibition of Knox's work was held at the 42nd Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair in London in 2014.