Who was Jessie Newbery and what was her influence on Scottish art?

27th April 2023

Jessie Newbery, who died 75 years ago today, was a Scottish artist and embroiderer, and one of the artists who became known known as the Glasgow Girls. Newbery founded the Department of Embroidery at the Glasgow School of Art and, there, she established needlework as a form of unique artistic design. She married the director of the Glasgow School of Art, Francis Newbery, in 1889.

Jessie Newbery’s early life and education

Jessie was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, on 28 May 1864, to William Rowat, a shawl maker, and his wife, Margaret. She showed an early talent for art, and she studied at the Glasgow School of Art, whose building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, from 1885 to 1889.

After graduating from the Glasgow School of Art, Newbery worked as a freelance artist and embroiderer. In 1894, she was back at the Glasgow School of Art, where she was appointed head of the Department of Embroidery. In this role, she helped to revolutionise the teaching of embroidery, and encouraged her students to experiment with new techniques and materials.

Suffragist and campaigner for women’s rights, Ann Macbeth, is also closely associated with the needlework department at Glasgow School of Art. Architectural designer Thomas S Tait, who designed many of the buildings for Glasgow’s 1938 Empire Exhibition, likewise studied there.

Jessie Newbery’s art and accolades

Newbery’s work was exhibited widely throughout her career, and she won numerous awards. She was a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour, the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, and the Royal Society of British Artists.

Her work is characterised by its use of bright colours, its intricate designs, and its strong sense of composition. She was a pioneer in the field of embroidery, and her work helped to raise the status of the craft. She was also a strong advocate for women’s rights, and she was a role model for many young women artists.

Jessie Newbery died in Dorset, England, on 27 April 1948. She was 83 years old.


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