Knox the Person

Knox the Person

It is very difficult to put down a definitive picture of Knox the person.

Born of Scottish parents in Cronkbourne Village, on the Isle of Man in 1864, there seems to be little known about him until his teenage years except that he attended St Barnabas Elementary School in Douglas from about the age of 7 by which time the Knox family lived on South Quay in Douglas.

He attended the newly created Douglas School of Art when it opened in 1880 and soon gained awards for his work.

His love of art, design and teaching, plus his spirituality seems to have been the essence of his life.

He did not seek fame and fortune and he did not look for praise. However, this did not mean that he was an introverted loner/hermit type figure.

He was a Committee member of the Isle of Man Arts Club, on the Board of Lezayre school, an active member of the Manx Natural History and Antiquarian Society, sidesperson at St Matthew’s church, helped establish the reading room in Sulby and found interesting speakers for their talks, gave talks on various subjects including on to the London Manx Society re the role of the Deemster in the Isle of Man and wrote articles for magazines and periodicals.

Always a teacher at heart and believed in drawing out the artist in his students rather than the establishment view of making them draw the same things over and over again. He believed passionately that students should have their own thoughts and encouraged them to have confidence in themselves and their abilities.

Three quotes from him sum up in a nutshell his feelings on art design and teaching:

“Aim at order, hope for beauty”

“Never be ordinary, better be nothing than that”

“Art is in everything if we choose to put it there”

Also. In 1913 looking back at his time at The Douglas Art School in the 1890s he described himself and his friends as “Venturesome Modernists”. They wanted to bring order and beauty in a new way and not just follow on what others had done before them.

He had wonderful God given gifts but knew one had to work hard to build upon and improve gifts.

In 1912 he wrote to a student “Don’t slacken in your work: work and think - think and work: that is the royal road: there is no other through the forest of art”

To show how much he valued his art and the Isle of Man he wrote the following in 1926 regarding the Canadian exhibition of his watercolours (please see the Miscellaneous section for a copy of the catalogue) – “What do you think of mine (news) – my pictures are being trundled to Winnipeg ….. but the blighters want to buy them.” He had the 80 watercolours sent back to the Island.

To appreciate his spirituality one can look at his incredible illuminated watercolours which illustrate and interpret St Patrick’s hymn – “The Deer’s Cry”. All 56 pages can be seen under the relevant section of this website.

In the Miscellaneous section there is a beautiful spiritual poem entitled “Renshent” which also gives a glimpse of Knox’s thoughts.

Are we describing a perfect saint here? No. He was as human, with all that entails, as everybody else.

He could have a short fuse, saw many things in stark black and white. Could not abide injustice. Stood up for what he believed in and would not back down if he thought he was right.

Some of these aspects will be brought out when more research into newspaper archives and correspondence has been sifted through, and made presentable for inclusion on the website.

Overall, he was a human being with faults like all of us but worked on always improving the God given gifts he had.

His epitaph is the best short summation of this much undervalued and underappreciated Manxman:

Here lies

Archibald Knox

Artist, …………………


A humble servant of God in

the ministry of the beautiful.

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