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Enid Marx 

(London 1902-1998)

Moquette design

pen and ink on paper

image: 16 x 16 cm. 

sheet: 33 x 33 cm.


From the artist’s estate, 1998;

private collection, UK.

Enid Marx was a distant cousin of Karl Marx, and the first female engraver to be designated as a Royal Designer for Industry. Today, she is best known for her textile designs for the London Transport Board and Utility Furniture Scheme. The iconic moquettes she created for the London bus and underground seating still resonate with Londoners today. Marx later recalled in a lecture to other textile designers that ‘We all thought at first that the best way of disguising dirt was to use colours which would more or less tone in with the dirt’ but that ‘the best method of ensuring the seats would look clean after a period of use was to use strongly contrasting tones and rather brilliant colour.’

Her father was a paper-making engineer, and Enid credited his influence on her as a young girl fascinated in design. She travelled extensively in Europe with her family before WWI, and would have been exposed to the avant-garde arts movements of that time. In 1921 she completed a foundation at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, before moving to the Royal College of Art in 1922, where her classmates included Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious and Barbara Hepworth among others. She was taught by Paul Nash, who introduced her to publishers and encouraged her in her avant-garde perspective. Yet, in 1925 she failed her final diploma assessment as led by Charles Ricketts, who judged her work to be ‘vulgar’.

She didn’t let this set her back, but continued her clear path in industrial design, deriving inspiration from vernacular artwork and everyday objects, herself designing wrapping paper, stamps and even Christmas cards. Leaving the RCA without a degree, Marx went to work for the textile designers Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher at their studio in Hampstead where she created block-printed textiles, often using naturally-derived dyes. Her work was sold through the Little Gallery, off Sloan Street, and later at Cecilia Dunbar Kilburn’s gallery, Dunbar Hay. 

During World War II, Marx was commissioned by The Pilgrim Trust  to paint 14 watercolours of buildings under threat from bombing for its ‘Recording Britain’ project, and in 1951 she weas one of the designers chosen to exhibit at the Royal Pavilion at the Festival of Britain. She later went on to design the frame around the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the British Wilding series of penny, ha’penny and three-ha’penny stamps, and the 1976 Christmas stamp issue featuring medieval embroidery. The London Transport Museum recorded an oral history with Marx in 1980. Pallant House Gallery held a retrospective of her work in 2012, and another was held at the House of Illustration, London, in 2018.

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