Thursday, 26 August 2010

Embroidered Panels of Selwyn Image

Illuastration: Selwyn Image. Juno decorative embroidery panel design, c1880.

Selwyn Image was an interesting combination of clergyman and progressive designer. He co-founded along with Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo, the seminal Century Guild of Artists and was the co-editor of the equally inspired and inspiring Hobby Horse magazine, which was very much conceived as the mouthpiece of the Guild. Although Image had left a career in the Church of England in 1882 it was only a year before the founding of the Century Guild of Artists. The church always remained an important element in Image's life and this is born out by the amount of ecclesiastical imagery he produced throughout his career which encompassed stained glass and embroidery in particular.

However, Image was not entirely tied to Christian themes when it cam to design work. These four designs for classically themed embroidered panels which he produced between 1879 and 1880 were well received at the time and in fact fitted in effortlessly with many of the aesthetically inspired interiors that were becoming fashionable in Britain. Even those not entirely won over by the Aesthetic movement, its philosophy and admittedly it's often staged posturing, admired the classically motivated work shown in these panels.

Illustration: Selwyn Image. Minerva decorative embroidered panel design, c1880.

Image produced four decorative themes for these embroidered panels, that of Juno, Minerva, Venus and Proserpine. All four were intended to be placed within a screen which could then be used either as an ornamental talking point, or to screen off an area such as a piano for example.

The simple and aesthetic quality of the design work, along with its classical references and relatively chaste ancient goddesses, appealed to the period. Embroidery was seeing a large expansion within the craft along with its increasing appeal outside of its often perceived remit of ecclesiastical vestments and church furnishings. Although these were still important and were to remain a vital source for embroidery for the rest of the nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries, domestic embroidery was to see a vast expansion with decorative work appearing on bed and table linen, as well as cushions, stools, fire guards, even mirror frames.

Illustration: Selwyn Image. Venus decorative embroidered panel design, c1880.

Although embroidery was encouraged as being a particularly important female pastime, and Image, along with other leading artists and designers such as Walter Crane and William Morris, produced a number of designs and decorative panels that could be produced at home, more complex and larger pieces such as the four panels produced by Image, were often bought as finished decorative pieces in their own right.

Admittedly, cartoons produced for embroidery decoration, by their very nature, have to be clearly marked out with as little clutter and confusion as possible. However, it is interesting to note that Image had experience both in the stained glass and woodcut crafts, and so it is perhaps no surprise that these panels also tend towards a clear and defined imagery that would be expected within those two crafts.

Illustration: Selwyn Image. Proserpine decorative embroidered panel design, c1880.

Image was still a clergyman within the Church of England when he produced the designs for these four embroidered panels. He had been ordained and was a working member of the church. However, as his decorative and design workload became ever more important and consuming, he had to make the decision to retire as an active clergyman. Nevertheless, Image was still often referred to in the contemporary press as the Reverend Selwyn Image. Although Image was by no means the only clergyman to have had dual ambitions or at least dual enthusiasms, he is perhaps one of the most important reverends within English decorative arts history.

Reference links:
The Aesthetic Movement
ART IN NEEDLEWORK (The Aesthetic movement & the arts and crafts movement)
An Aesthetic Movement Stained and Painted Glass Screen Giclee Poster Print by John Moyr Smith, 18x24 
Artistic Circles: Design and Decoration in the Aesthetic Movement
The House Beautiful: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Interior
An Ebonised Four Fold Aesthetic Movement Screen, English Circa 1875 Giclee Poster Print, 12x16 EVERYDAY ART (The Aesthetic movement & the arts and crafts movement)
Oscar Wilde & the Aesthetic Movement
The Aesthetic Movement in England
ART & HANDICRAFT (The Aesthetic movement & the arts and crafts movement)

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