FAÇADE AND FACT symposium talk

I will be speaking at Façade and Fact: Design Cultures of Bath and Bristol at the Holburne Museum in Bath on 11 September 2015. I will be talking about Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, and their profound influence on the region and beyond. The symposium is organised by Dr Kayla Rose and the BRISTOL+BATHx team – further details here, abstract below.


Clifford and Rosemary Ellis: Light Makes The Object Visible

Clifford and Rosemary Ellis are best known as designers for the collaborative practice that produced iconic works for London Transport, Shell, and the New Naturalist book series from the early 1930s until the mid 1980s. Their influence in the 21st century is most clearly demonstrated through their design-led curriculum for Bath Academy of Art, and Clifford’s uncompromising recruitment policy that brought some of the world’s most influential artists and designers to teach at Corsham Court between 1946 and 1985.

The Ellises pedagogical practice was substantially influenced by Roger Fry’s 1920 ‘Vision and Design’; Cizek’s work with children championed by Marion Richardson in the 1920s; Herbert Read; and Lewis Mumford’s 1934 call-to-arms ‘Technics and Civilisation’. Drawing on this design philosophy, the Ellises devised a syllabus intended to “develop curiosity and truthfulness” and to “make an important contribution to post-war educational and industrial efficiency” which was known as ‘Light Makes The Object Visible’. This comprehensive, inter-subject syllabus was unique to Bath Academy of Art, prefiguring later diploma and degree programmes.

This paper discusses the influence of the Ellises and of this curriculum on a generation of designers and design educators, and evaluates their role in the design culture of the region.