Jessie Newbery

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Jessie Newbery
Jessie Newbery in 1900.
Born Jessie Wylie Rowat
(1864-05-28)28 May 1864
Died 27 April 1948(1948-04-27) (aged 83)
Nationality Scottish
Education Glasgow School of Art
Known for Decorative Arts, Design
Movement Art Nouveau, Glasgow Style, Symbolism
Spouse(s) Francis Newbery

Jessie Newbery (28 May 1864 – 27 April 1948) was a Scottish artist and embroiderer. She was one of the artists known as the Glasgow Girls. Newbery also created the Department of Embroidery at the Glasgow School of Art where she was able to establish needlework as a form of unique artistic design.[1] She married director of the Glasgow School of Art, Francis Newbery, in 1889.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born Jessie Wylie Rowat in Paisley, she was the daughter of Margaret Downie Hill and William Rowat, a forward-thinking shawl manufacturer. A visit to Italy when Newbery was eighteen stimulated a lifelong interest in textiles and other decorative arts. She enrolled as a student at Glasgow School of Art in 1884.

Work and career[edit]

Newbery established the Department of Embroidery at the Glasgow School of Art[1] and she was appointed head in 1894. Newbery was considered an "enthusiastic teacher and encouraged a strong sense of design in her pupils' work."[1] Her work in the Department of Embroidery helped to raise the status of creative needlework.

Newbery felt that design, in addition to utility, was important in her work. A rose motif, made using circular pink linen applied to the support with a silk satin stitch, frequently appears in her work and came to be seen as a kind of trademark. While the symbol has been interpreted as feminine, mystical, as well as symbolic of female genitalia, such an analysis has been said to underestimate "Newbery's materialism, her commitment to socialism and her contribution to community."[3] Her approach to design was egalitarian: "I believe that nothing is common or unclean: that the design and decoration of a pepper pot is as important in its degree, as the conception of a cathedral."[1]

Newbery was careful in her choice of color and materials. She preferred to use a lighter palette than was traditional, focusing on light purples, greens, blues and pink.[1] She also encouraged the use of "unusual techniques such as needle weaving."[4] Newbery's appliqué work gave rise to the rose motif identified with Glasgow Style, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his circle.

She taught dress design alongside embroidery. She thought clothing should be practical and took an interest in rational dress, while also believing that clothes should be beautiful. This approach to women's clothing was considered "avant-garde" and "radical."[2] Newbery first experimented with a "Renaissance flavor" in her own clothing, often choosing materials such as silk velvets and lightweight wools which she embroidered herself.[1] Additionally, she held classes in mosaics, from 1896 to 1898, in enamels from 1895 to 1899, and also in book decoration in 1899.[3]

Newbery was also an active member of the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists. Along with sponsoring many friends and students for membership, she also provided exhibition and studio space for women artists and helped to make materials for related movements, such as the suffrage banners.[3]

After an illness in 1908, Jessie Newbery retired from the Department of Embroidery. She continued to create her own work and showed her embroidery in exhibitions, including one at the Louvre, Paris.[1] Newbery died in Corfe Castle, Dorset, where she and her husband, Francis Newbery, had gone to live after retirement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Arthur, Liz (1993). "Jessie Newbery (1864-1948)". In Burkhauser, Jude. Glasgow Girls: Women in Art and Design 1880-1920. Edinburgh: Canongate Press, Plc. pp. 146–151. ISBN 0963698508. 
  2. ^ a b "Jessie Newbery and Artistic Dress". Special Collections at Glasglow School of Art Library. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Gaze, Delia (1997). Dictionary of women artists. London; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. p. 1016. ISBN 1884964214. 
  4. ^ "Cushion Cover". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 22 February 2015.