Liberty, Arthur Lasenby

(1843—1917) fabric manufacturer and retailer

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(b Chesham, Bucks, 13 Aug 1843; d The Lee, Bucks, 11 May 1917). English fabric manufacturer and retailer. On 15 May 1875 he opened his first shop, East India House, at 218A Regent Street, London, which was an immediate success. His imported coloured Eastern silks were an important element in the Aesthetic Movement and their weaves and dyes were later produced for him in ‘Liberty colours’ by English textile converters. He imported a wide range of furnishings from Japan and the Far East, soon supplemented by the products of the Arts and crafts movement. In 1884 he opened a dress department managed by E. W. Godwin, a crusader for dress reform, and Liberty gowns soon became high fashion. The Paris branch, set up in 1890, helped to introduce the English version of the Art Nouveau style to the Continent. Liberty's became a public company in 1894, and by the 1890s Arthur Liberty had become a public figure, credited with having created an entirely new taste in fabrics, dress and interior decoration. His friendship with Christopher Dresser, and his own idea of combining the elements of Celtic design and ornament with those of Art Nouveau, led in 1899 to the launch of the Cymric collection of silver and jewellery, followed in 1903 by Tudric domestic pewterware. Both ranges were very successful, and their designs, together with those of Liberty fabrics and wall hangings, are the best examples of English Art Nouveau.


From The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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