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2 Mar 2021

Jane Younger and art

Written by Alison McIntosh-Prentice, Visitor Services Assistant
An embroidered bedspread on a single bed. The design includes Mackintosh-style roses.
To mark Women’s History Month, we take a closer look at Jane Younger, sister of Anna Blackie of the Hill House, Helensburgh.

Jane Younger (1863–1955) was Anna Blackie’s elder sister and was a student of Jessie Newbery at the Glasgow School of Art between 1890 and 1910. Jessie started teaching embroidery classes in 1894 at 3 Rose Street, Glasgow, before moving to the new Mackintosh-designed Glasgow School of Art in Renfrew Street in 1900.

Watercolour painting of a garden with lots of colourful flowers.
A watercolour of the garden at the Hill House by Jane Younger

Jane Younger was predominantly known for her watercolours and won many awards. Her work was displayed at the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists and she exhibited locally and internationally – from the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts to the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour – in Paisley, London and Paris. However, with the growing international acclaim of the Glasgow School of Art’s Department of Embroidery, she also excelled in this medium, providing soft furnishings for the Hill House, where one of her bedspreads is on display in Mr Blackie’s dressing room.

A bedroom with a single bed. On it is an embroidered bedspread. To the side of the bed is a dressing table with an ornate back.
The bedspread created by Jane Younger in Walter Blackie’s dressing room

Jessie Newbery revolutionised the way students were taught embroidery, focusing on the individual skills of each student rather than the traditional method of laborious execution, which produced stereotypical works with little artistic merit. Jessie’s husband, Francis Newbery, was Director of the Glasgow School of Art and she shared his passion in spotting talent in students and encouraging originality. This certainly benefited Jane’s own talents as she was passionate about painting from an early age. This could have developed as an antidote to her progressive deafness, which became profound in later years when her only communication was through a note pad that she kept by her at all times. However, her deafness didn’t prevent her from realising her adventurous spirit, as she travelled alone to Paris in the 1890s as well as taking many sketching trips abroad.

Other women artists at the Glasgow School of Art at the same time as Jane were Margaret and Frances Macdonald, who later married Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Herbert McNair respectively (becoming ‘The Four’), as well as Jessie M King and Ann Macbeth. Ann became Jessie Newbery’s embroidery assistant, taking over the department in 1908 on Mrs Newbery’s retirement.

Black and white image of a bookplate. There are bookshelves filled with books and in the bottom left corner it says: Agnes Anna Coventry Blackie.
Bookplate designed by Jane Younger

In 1902, the Turin International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art had an entire room dedicated to the students and collaborators of the Glasgow School of Art in the ‘Scottish Section’. Jane Younger, Ann Macbeth, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, Frances Macdonald McNair and Jessie M King all exhibited their works, alongside work from the Blackie publishing company in the form of Talwin Morris’s book cover designs.

Jane accompanied Walter and Anna Blackie on their tour of northern Italy and Switzerland in 1902 and it’s likely they visited the Turin exhibition given their connections to it, but unfortunately there is no written account of this.

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