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Creating a knotwork cross

Object number: ROMGH.1998.14.1

Type: Poster

Material: Ballpoint pen, Paper, Pencil

Width: 63.3cm | Height: 50.4cm

Production date: 1946 - 1968

 Yes you can     No you cannot
Use the same Celtic patterns in your art and craft work Yes
Use this design for commercial purposes without the permission of the Copyright holder No
Commercially reproduce this object without the permission of the Copyright holder No

George Bain was very interested in the smaller cross design on the Ulbster stone in Caithness. It is one of the few Pictish sculpted stones that he drew in various ways. Looking at his finished versions of the Ulbster cross it is easy to see why he was fascinated by it. The flowing knotwork motif rotates and mutates into a more angular form in its central square. The symmetry is particularly pleasing to the eye.

Here Bain explores several different ideas. Around the drawing in the middle of the poster he separates out the elements that make the Ulbster cross. He draws the various stages. But the main focus of the poster is on a development of the pattern at the centre of the original.

Bain draws together all of the angular knotwork around and in the middle of the small cross on the Ulbster stone. It all lies within a large, diagonally set square. He clearly delights in this exploration of the design. It’s something he had already teased out in his book Methods of Construction. Then, at the bottom, he notes his own ideas about similarities to designs found in other, earlier, cultural contexts in Europe.

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 48 Plate 8

Author: Alastair Morton

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