Designer, painter, educator, mentor and social campaigner, Peggy Angus is the focus for Towner’s major summer exhibition, exploring the prolific output and influence of one of the twentieth century’s most overlooked creative practitioners. Peggy Angus: Designer, Teacher, Painter brings together industrial and interior design work with Angus’ artistic practice, in the context of Furlongs, Angus’ Sussex home which she described as ‘the matrix of much strange and inventive creation'.
Although Angus early career was in figurative painting, she became best known for her Modernist industrial design. She was commissioned to produce extensive decorative tile murals for significant post war building initiatives including London Heathrow Airport Underground Station and Gatwick Airport’s original buildings for which she designed a new form of marbling design for glass cladding. She designed large-scale tile murals for many other public places including East London’s Lansbury Lawrence School, and Glyndwr University in Wrexham that still exist today.
As a result of Angus’ success in tile design, she began experimenting with hand-made wallpaper design, translating tile patterns into hand-cut lino blocks which were then used with vinyl emulsion paints to create repeat prints. Over the years she invented a distinctive and diverse range of designs, seemingly rooted in the natural world with echoes of artist and designer William Morris, and influenced by Celtic patterning, heraldry, and the art of bargees and gypsies. Angus eventually developed a business producing wallpapers to commission, often reflecting the recipient’s interests or environment.
Peggy Angus: Designer, Teacher, Painter evokes the rich, interwoven detail of Angus’ life reflecting her significant creative achievements, and roles as artistic mentor and social justice campaigner. Drawing inspiration from the chaotic Bohemian atmosphere of her home in Sussex, wallpaper and tile designs are presented alongside paintings, sketches, photographs, films, furniture and other archive ephemera. Angus’ early illustrations, sketches and sketchbooks, sit next to landscape paintings of Sussex and Scotland, and portraits of friends and family. Wallpapers, hand printed from the artist’s original blocks especially for this exhibition, line the walls together with Angus’ tile designs, including a new commission designed exclusively for Towner by her former business partner Di Hall.
In 1933 while teaching in Eastbourne, Angus began living at Furlongs, a shepherd's cottage on the Sussex Downs that became a gathering-place for many artists; Eric and Tirzh Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Percy Horton, John and Myfanwy Piper, Olive Cook and Edwin Smith and many of Angus’ pupils and colleagues. She encouraged all who came to Furlongs to engage in creativity in the place, which led to an interior comparable to that of nearby Charleston Farmhouse, home of the Bloomsbury set.
In 1936 Angus had a short-lived marriage to the architect and writer Jim Richards, through whom she met Serge Chermayeff (co-architect with Erich Mendelsohn of De Le Warr Pavilion), who along with other Modernist practitioners had a strong influence on her career. Radically for the times, Angus refused to give up her teaching post when she married and had children. She later pioneered a part-time working structure that enabled her to teach and continue her own projects. Despite commercial success, Angus remained a teacher, believing that teaching was as important as creating her own work. She had a lifelong belief that art did not have to be produced by those with formal art school training, or shown only in galleries and museums, and actively practiced what she called Creative Patronage with both younger and much older students.