Folder GSAA/DIR/5/38/6 - Family Papers

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Family Papers


  • 1906-1984 (Creation)

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1 folder

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Papers of the Newbery family including papers dating to after Newbery's retirement; papers of his wife, Jessie Newbery; and documents relating to Mary Newbery Sturrock, daughter of Francis and Jessie Newbery. Papers as follows: DIR/5/38/6/1: Letter from F R Benson of the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow, to Miss Newbery enclosing tickets for a Box for the play 'Much Ado', 12 Mar 1906 (1 sheet). DIR/5/38/6/2: Headed letter paper of Francis Newbery, Eastgate, Corfe Castle, Dorset, c1918 (10 sheets). DIR/5/38/6/3: Order of Proceedings for the inauguration of the Sign of Saint Edward, King and Martyr, Patron Saint of the Village, at Corfe Castle. Newbery made many of the readings at the event, 02 Jul 1927 (1 item). DIR/5/38/6/4: Cardboard silhouette of Francis and Jessie Newbery in a photograph mount, c1930s (1 item). DIR/5/38/6/5: Letters and fragments of letters from Jessie Newbery to her daughter Elsie and perhaps Mary. One of the letters to Elsie is dated 24 Sep 1934. The other letters are fragmentary and include topics such as recipes, books and sewing projects, c1934. (4 sheets) DIR/5/38/6/6: Letter from George M Baltus to Mr and Mrs Newbery catching up with them following the Second World War, telling them of his experiences during that time, and telling them family news, 07 Jan 1946 (1 sheet). DIR/5/38/6/7: File of photographs, pressclippings and letters relating to Mary Newbery Sturrock, daughter of Francis and Jessie Newbery, c1970s-80s (1 folder): File includes: Postcards of artworks by Charles Rennie Mackintosh; family photographs of Mary Newbery Sturrock and family members; a photograph of Francis and Jessie Newbery; letter from Mary Newbery Sturrock thanking her correspondent (name not given) for the Mackintosh card and about her memories of the doors of the School of Art being white, 16 Oct 1984; pressclipping from the Helensburgh Advertiser about the opening of a special Mackintosh exhibition held at the Hill House, 03 May 1977; and family postcards, c1980s.

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Biographical history

Francis Henry Newbery, known as Fra. Newbery, was the Headmaster and Director of the Glasgow School of Art from 1885 to 1918. During that time the profile of the School was raised from that of a moderately successful institution to one an international reputation.

Newbery was born on 15 May 1855 in Membury, East Devon. He grew up in Dorset and studied as an Art Master in Bridport, before moving to London in 1875 to continue working as an Art Master there. In 1877 he started attending the National Art Training School at South Kensington where he was taught by Edward Poynter and other artists of the time. By 1885 he had taught in most of the School's classes and, at the age of 30, was appointed to the post of Headmaster of Glasgow School of Art.
His success at Glasgow School of Art was led by the acclaim and notoriety surrounding the work of designers and artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret Macdonald, Frances Macdonald, Herbert McNair, Jessie M. King and others working in the 1890s in Glasgow. It was most highly acclaimed at the Turin Exhibition of Decorative Art, 1902. Much of this success was due to Newbery who selected the work and chose Mackintosh to design the rooms for its display. For this work Newbery was awarded an Italian knighthood.

Newbery oversaw the erection of the new School building at 167 Renfrew Street. He had drawn up the brief, based on his own personal experience and the demanding Department of Science and Art specifications, and he appreciated Mackintosh's design for its practical interpretation. In favouring Mackintosh's plans, he was supported by the Governors of Glasgow School of Art and the official Department of Science and Art advisors.

Under the Scottish Education Department in 1901, Newbery devised his own curriculum which led to the award of a Diploma. The course was divided into four stages, which did not necessarily correspond to years - students were moved through at their own pace, some taking seven or eight years and others only three. Many were not ever awarded the Diploma.
Staff brought in by Newbery to teach at the School included, among others, the Belgian Symbolist painter Jean Delville, the English portraitist, Maurice Greiffenhagen, the French Adolphe Giraldon, the English Decorative artists W.E.F. Britten and Robert Anning Bell and, as Head of Architecture, the French architect Eugene Bourdon. There was also a strong core of Glasgow School of Art trained teachers including Jessie Newbery, Anne Macbeth, Dorothy Carleton Smyth, Olive Carleton Smyth, Allan D. Mainds, James Gray and de Courcy Lewthwaite Dewar.

Newbery inaugurated many schemes at the School including the Glasgow School of Art Club and the Artist Teachers' Exhibition Society, both of which encouraged exhibitions and competition within the School, and allowed present and former staff and students to meet. He invited leading figures in the art and design worlds to lecture at the School including Walter Crane, C.F.A. Voysey, William Morris and Lewis F. Day. He established good contacts with Glasgow University so that the students received lectures in anatomy, art history, philosophy and literature, beyond those available within the School.

Newbery exhibited with the Glasgow Boys, and had close ties to John Lavery, James Guthrie and E.A. Walton. His paintings were exhibited world-wide and he was particularly successful in Italy. From 1890, most of his holidays were spent in Walberswick, Suffolk, often in the company of other Scottish artists, such as Mackintosh and the young W.O. Hutchison.

In 1918 he was granted early retirement on medical grounds, and moved to Corfe Castle, Dorset where he continued to paint, mainly in the field of public art. He died at the age of ninety-one on 18 December 1946. Jessie Newbery died sixteen months later.

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Biographical history

Jessie Wylie Newbery (1864–1948) was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, on 28 May 1864, one of the four children of William Rowat and his wife, Margaret Downie Hill. William Rowat was a shawl manufacturer and later tea importer who had strong views on the education of women. Like her father, Jessie had an independent nature. At the age of eighteen she visited Italy, where she became interested in mosaics, textiles, pottery, and ‘peasant crafts’. Throughout her life she collected textiles from Italy, Russia, and the Balkans. In 1884 she enrolled as a student at the Glasgow School of Art, and ten years later she became head of the school's department of embroidery, which she had established earlier. She married Francis H Newbery four years after his appointment as headmaster, on 28 September 1889. Her work raised the status of embroidery to that of a creative art form.

"She evolved a characteristic linen appliqué … worked on linen ground, with applied simple stylized flowers and leaves, cut out of coloured linens and held down by satin stitch in silk … the stems coiled into strong lines, outlining the shape of the article". (Swain, ‘Mrs J. R. Newbery’, 105)

She ‘liked the opposition of straight lines to curved; of horizontal to vertical … I specially aim at beautifully shaped spaces and try to make them as important as the patterns’ (ibid.). The Glasgow rose, emblem of the Glasgow style, ‘is believed to have evolved from her circles of pink linen, cut out freehand and applied with lines of satin stitch to indicate folded petals’ (ibid.). She introduced lettering, mottoes, and verses as part of her designs, and also taught needleweaving and dress design. In an interview with Gleeson White she commented, ‘I believe in education consisting of seeing the best that has been done. Then, having this high standard thus set before us, in doing what we like to do: that for our fathers, this for us’ (G. White, 48). She was a fine teacher and inspired many of her students.

At the same time Mrs Newbery managed her mercurial husband and brought up two daughters, Elsie and Mary, for whom she designed artistic yet practical dresses, as she designed and made her own attractive clothes. Her original and individual designs for dresses incorporating embroidery set a style for her students which was emulated by many of the Glasgow Girls, including the Macdonald sisters, Margaret and Frances. Like women in other artistic circles, for example, Jane and May Morris, Jessie Newbery wore dresses of an Italian Renaissance appearance, though she also believed that dress should be practical as well as beautiful. At a school at-home in November 1900:
"her black merve [sic] gown was slightly trained and had the long sleeves puffed at intervals to correspond with the simply fashioned bodice which was finished with a narrow collar of old lace, and on the shoulders bows of reddish gold velvet". (Burkhauser, 148)

It was later noted that ‘she never wore a corset in her life … she deplored the tight lacing imposed by the current fashion’ (ibid., 50), a comment that reveals her interest in rational dress (she possessed a ‘rational’ skating costume with red flannel bloomers). In 1918 she retired with her husband to Eastgate, Corfe Castle, Dorset, where she died on 27 April 1948.

Jessie's two younger sisters, Margaret (Madge) Finlayson Rowat, 1864-1948, and Mary Margaret Hill Rowat 1873-1970, also studied at the GSA. Madge appears in the Registers from 1884 to 1902 and won several local prizes for her composition, best studies of heads painted from life and heads from life in watercolour in 1890. Mary enrolled in 1897, giving her occupation as designer.

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