Celtic Design Bowl
Groam House Museum

This brightly painted wooden bowl shows the philosophy of George Bain who was central to the revival of Celtic art during the early twentieth century.  

George Bain (1881 – 1968) was an artist and educator born in Scrabster in Caithness. Bain was captivated by intricate Pictish stones, early medieval illuminated manuscripts and ornate metalwork from Britain and Ireland. He made detailed drawings of the designs and created an instruction method to help others to recreate them through a series of simple steps.  

We don’t know who painted this bowl, though it is inspired by detail on a page in the Lindisfarne gospels and features a ring of brightly coloured birds around the outside.  

On the inside of the bowl is an all-over open knotwork pattern. On a rich, deep blue background, the gold, blue, and crimson colours, and the bird motif are repeated. The two ribbons tie themselves into loose pretzel shapes around the rim. They then swirl and loop across themselves and each other to the centre of the bowl and back again.  

Bain shows how to create this design from first principles in the ‘Elementary Knotwork Borders’ section of his book. 

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Date: 1940s
Materials : Wood
Size : 22cm x 9cm

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