Jessie Marion KING 1875 - 1949
Jessie Marion King was born in New Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire. Jessie King studied at Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art where, during the 1890s, she was influenced by the work of tutors Jessie and Fra Newberry. Her work developed quickly and she won a Queen’s prize in the South Kensington National Art Competition of 1898 for her design work. She had developed a highly individual illustrative style based upon exquisite pen-and-ink drawing, using lines and dots in a manner reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley whom she admired. Her work, however, lacked the sensuality of Beardsley and the tormented anguish of Frances MacDonald.
In 1902 she joined the staff of Glasgow School of Art to teach book-cover design and in the same year she was recognised by a full-length article in The Studio by Walter Watson. In 1904 King was commissioned to produce 95 illustrations for William Morris’s The Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems, but even when not working on specific commissions she would illustrate literature, which had caught her imagination. The late 19th century believed in the concept of the total work of art, bringing together various branches of art, and in this respect Jessie King was part of the Symbolist movement. She worked as a designer of jewellery, tiles, fabrics, wallpapers and book covers.
In 1909 an exhibition was held of her watercolours and drawings of France, Germany and Scotland including Kirkcudbright, which represented a move away from her earlier illustrative work. In 1908 she married E A TAYLOR and in 1911 they moved to Paris, establishing an art school - the Shealing Atelier. King was impressed by the designs of Bakst for the Ballets Russes and her designs became stronger and more colourful. She also experimented with batik. On the outbreak of war they returned to Scotland, setting up a summer school at High Corrie on Arran and working from their home near Kirkcudbright. King’s later watercolours show a bold, colourful approach, influenced to some extent by her husband. She experimented with acid dyes to give more brilliant colours: she also worked on ceramic.
Jessie King was widely talented, and all periods of her work are interesting, but her exquisitely detailed and executed drawings and illustrations of 1898-1905, often painted on vellum and sometimes heightened with gold, have few rivals in British art of the period. She became well known and well loved in her adopted home of Kirkcudbright and died there aged 74.