Illustration: Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott. Textile design, 1905.
Despite the fact that Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott was born in Kent, as his name suggests, he was of Scottish ancestry and therefore could be seen as either an English or Scottish architect and designer, depending on your viewpoint.
Interestingly, Baillie Scott's father who had extensive interests in Australia was expecting his son to eventually take over the management of his sheep farms in Australia, despite his son showing no real inclination. To this end Scott trained at Cirencester Agricultural College, but then moved onto formal architectural training at Bath, by which time it had obviously been decided that sheep farming was not to be his future.
Although Baillie Scott produced a substantial amount of architectural work throughout his career, he is also known to have produced a range of work in other disciplines including furniture, stained glass and metalwork. Textiles were also included and therefore work can be found in rug and particularly embroidery design as well as woven and printed textiles and wallpaper.
The architect and designer is known to have spent large amounts of time working on the details of the interiors of his buildings, just as much, if not more than he spent on the building itself. To Baillie Scott a designed building was a piece of fine art work and he felt that his respectful attention to detail should be paid to all aspects of the building from the smallest to the largest. This is perhaps why so much of his work can look studied to some, while considered to others.
The textile design illustrated in this article was produced by Baillie Scott in 1905. It is a seemingly and deceptively simplistic pattern using only a minimum colour palette on a simple white background. There is no shading, no shadow and no perspective. The floral motifs lend little to any form of formal observational study and in that respect, they can be said to be particularly contemporary for Edwardian England. Although Baillie Scott was steeped in the tradition of the English Arts & Crafts movement and indeed saw himself as a follower of both William Morris and John Ruskin, he developed his own uniquely characteristic style. His work in architecture, design and decoration, was to move away from the dependency on tradition that always seemed to be such an integral part of much, though to be fair not all of the followers of the English Arts & Crafts movement.
In some respects, it was Baillie Scott's movement towards a simplified understanding of design and decoration that inevitably drew him towards a more European frame of reference, rather than an entirely English. While even at the relatively late date of 1905, much English textile design work was still largely following the remit set by William Morris a quarter of a century or more before. However, this particular piece of Baillie Scott's work could well be considered as much closer in style and ideals to that of some of the more progressive of Central European designers such as Richard Riemerschmid and Josef Hoffmann. It was here that Modernism was making its first real progress and the building blocks put down by a range of architects and designers were eventually to shape the coming century. That only a few English names could be included within the initial stages of Modernism says much about the pervasiveness of Morris, Ruskin and the English Arts & crafts movement.
However, it is the sheer simplicity of this particular textile design that is its ultimate charm. It is always a difficult task for any pattern work to contain enough interest without overloading, or being far too simplistic. Pattern work is often looked upon as easily achievable, but is in fact a relatively complex technical art form in its own right. For Baillie Scott to produce a piece of decorative pattern work that appears effortless, shows a depth of skill that is not easy to master.
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