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Phoebe Anna Traquair was a ificant and important figure in British art. She contributed widely to the Arts and Crafts movement, and was one of the first women artists in Scotland to achieve professional recognition. Like many artists of the Arts and Crafts era she worked across diverse branches of the arts, producing embroideries, manuscript illumination, bookbinding, enamelwork, furniture decoration, easel painting and mural decoration, which led to international recognition.
Phoebe Anna Moss attended art and de classes at the Royal Dublin Society; as a student she was ased the task of providing fossil fish illustrations for the young Scots palaeontologist, Ramsay Heatley Traquair, then keeper of the museum at the Royal Dublin Society. Moss and Ramsay Traquair went on to marry in Dublin in The following year, Ramsay Traquair was appointed Keeper of Natural History at the Museum of Science and Art in Edinburgh known today as the National Museum of Scotland where they subsequently moved and remained for the rest of their lives.
By the mids Traquair had formed friendships with numerous Edinburgh intellectuals including John Miller Gray, the first curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, with whom she shared an interest in Arts and Crafts and the Pre-Raphaelites.
Also included in her circle of friends was the socio-biologist Patrick Geddes, a founder of the Edinburgh Social Union, who commissioned Traquair to complete the decoration of the mortuary chapel of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Lauriston Lane. She also produced exquisite embroidered panels and drapes, including the four panel series, The Progress of a Soul In the s Traquair took up enamelling, jewellery and commercial book illustration.
Inshe was elected as an honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy. Traquair died in Edinburgh on 4 Augustaged 84 and was buried alongside her husband in Colinton churchyard. She deed her own gravestone, which was carved by the British sculptor Pilkington Jackson.
In the early s in Edinburgh, the beginnings of Arts and Crafts practice lay in philanthropy as a means of bringing greater morality and deeper meaning into art and de. A programme of mural decoration was initiated in by the Edinburgh Social Union, whose founding members included architect William S. Celtic, Byzantine, gothic and baroque elements were incorporated into the de, along with influences from the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The subject of the entire scheme was the redemption of mankind, and Traquair illustrated a series of Christian texts to comfort grieving parents.
Following on the success of this work, Traquair was commissioned by the Social Union to decorate the Song School of the Cathedral Church of St Mary in Palmerston Place between anda choral practice room still in use today. Once completed inthis massive church was almost instantly recognised as an outstanding work of modern decorative de by critics.
Illuminated manuscripts held a particular attraction for Traquair. In her childhood she had regular access to the medieval Book of Kellswhose image and technique she much admired. As a young artist in Edinburgh, her interest in poetry and manuscript illumination was influenced further by her friendship with John Miller Gray, the first curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Seeking guidance on the art of illumination, Traquair initially wrote to the writer John Ruskin in late ; throughout he lent Traquair a of French and Italian thirteenth and fourteenth century manuscripts to copy in exchange for a sight of her own work.
In the s and s she illuminated a series of major manuscripts. These included The Psalms of David, in which Traquair illuminated the first thirty four psalms from the biblical book of David over a period of fifteen years. Earlier s are more crudely drawn and written and feature iconographic details such as angels tending plants. However the majority of leaves date from and combine primary colours with gold, wide, intricately decorated borders and large historiated initials the first initial in the manuscript which is enlarged and decoratedrevealing her first-hand knowledge of French medieval manuscripts.
More modern influences included the manuscripts of Burne-Jones and William Morris, which would have been widely illustrated in contemporary London journals.
Through working on these illustrated s Traquair developed a confident style that was recognisable as her own, with a modern, romantic style and bold, striking use of colour. The s were a stylistic watershed for Traquair. She had mastered skills in illumination, mural decoration and embroidery, giving her the capacity to translate emotion and spiritual values into pictorial form. Her studio crafts were regularly reviewed and her painted buildings written up in the press as showplaces to be visited. By this time Edinburgh had also been established as a centre for Arts and Crafts practice and Traquair was a regular contributor.
In Scotland she was seen as a contributor to the Celtic Revival along with the painter John Duncan, who both saw the relevance of historical prototypes to modern decorative art. Her embroidered panels are a fine example, combining historical, decorative embroidery techniques with modern Symbolist subject matter.
The series is loosely based on Denys L'Auxerrois from Imaginary Portraits by the English critic and writer Walter Pater, though not considered a direct illustration. She described the series in the following excerpt. The panels were first exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in London where they were much admired by critics and public and in the series was sent to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St Louis.
In her later years Traquair continued to work successfully in the Arts and Crafts style, receiving ongoing commissions for public and private artworks. In the s she took up enamelling and jewellery, while watercolour paintings for reproduction as commercial book illustrations replaced illumination. She also continued to produce easel paintings including her Self Portrait,which seems quite private and personal, but also hints at a nervous energy. By the mids her eyesight was beginning to fail and she carried out little work after On 4 Augustat the age of 84, she died in Edinburgh and was buried alongside her husband in Colinton Churchyard.
By the mids the modernist aesthetic had taken over and her work fell from public view; much of her legacy remained neglected and unseen until the early s.
Since this time, museums and galleries have been avidly collecting her work and re-establishing a reputation which was so high during her lifetime. Peter Induni, Phoebe Anna Traquair, - Artist Murals and Public Art. Illuminated Manuscripts. Arts and Crafts. Late Work. Phoebe Anna Traquair, Self-portrait See all artworks by Phoebe Anna Traquair.Love in traquair
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The Traquair Room – Cringletie House