Call for the establishment of permanent Knox gallery

Archibald Knox. Below, Liam O'Neill

Archibald Knox. Below, Liam O'Neill

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Tynwald has been asked to establish a Knox gallery in the island as a lasting legacy to the famous Manx artist.

The artistic talents of this Manxman are widely-recognised and his works are held in high regard. Actor Brad Pitt has been among high-profile collectors of his work.

Liam O’Neill, chairman of the Archibald Knox Society, appealed last month – during a celebratory service to mark the 150th anniversary of Knox’s birth – for a permanent gallery to Knox.

‘It is the mission of the Archibald Knox Society to promote the legacy of Archibald Knox both nationally and internationally. Its function is purely educational with a primary goal of promoting the notion of a permanent Knox gallery here in the Isle of Man.

‘On this the 150th anniversary of Archibald Knox’s birth, we call, this evening, on Tynwald, the highest court in the land, in conjunction with Manx National Heritage, the Isle of Man Arts Council and Culture Vannin, to work together to establish such a gallery in the homeland of Mr Knox, as a lasting legacy in this year of culture 2014,’ said Mr O’Neill in his speech on the Significance of Knox, read by president of Tynwald Clare Christian, at the anniversary service at St German’s Cathedral, Peel, on April 9.

‘Although the president of Tynwald sent my speech directly to all members of Tynwald, not one response came back directly to the Society,’ said Mr O’Neill, who added: ‘The real question is who has the responsibilty to establish such a gallery, in the end it has to be Manx National Heritage, supported by Tynwald.’

In his Signifance of Knox speech Mr O’Neill recapped hopes previously shared that a permanent Knox gallery be created.

He quoted one of Knox’s London art students and a founding member of the Knox Guild for Design and Art, Winifred Tuckfield, in an article she had published in the Manx journal the ‘Mannins’.

‘Although she had never been to the Isle of Man she wanted the Manx nation not only to be aware of Mr Knox’s contribution to the history of the decorative arts but also to art education generally, she concludes her article by writing: “As T. E. Brown has given the poetry of your people, so has Mr Knox given in watercolour the poetry of your skies, shores, and buildings, painted your boats, trees and bridges, flecked with sunlight and shade as no other man has painted them. If you build a gallery for his work in the centre of your Isle, future generations would bless your name.

“To you who possess work by Mr Knox, I say treasure it and leave it to the island, that your children’s children may learn from it, and produce perhaps, yet greater work”.’

Mr O’Neill said: ‘Nearly 50 years later in 1964 on the 100th anniversary of his birth [of Knox] the Manx Museum presented a magnificent exhibition of Knox’s work entitled “Archibald Knox : Manx Artist and Designer” this was promoted by the then director the late Marshall Cubbon.

‘The exhibition was ahead of its time. Bringing to the island for the first time Knox artefacts from private collections in the UK. The exhibition was a forerunner of the famous centenary Liberty exhibition at the V&A in 1975. Working, during this period, with international collectors and scholars, the island of man led the revival of interest in the work of Archibald Knox worldwide.

‘Furthermore, to mark the 100th centenary anniversary, Mona Douglas, the Manx patriot, quoting from Winifred Tuckfield’s same text [from 1916], goes on to say: “Well, we now have the Knox Gallery in the Manx Museum, a treasury where many of his paintings are continually on exhibition in a worthy setting, and also one of the most beautiful of his illuminated parchments, the “Deer’s Cry of St Patrick”.’

But Mr O’Neill added: ‘Fifty years later on the 150th anniversary of Knox’s birth we must ask the question where is this permanent Knox gallery today?’

l See page 25 for details on an upcoming exhibition of Knox work in London.

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