Enid Marx

Undergoing something of a re-evaluation and renaissance at the moment, the designer Enid Marx (1902-1998) made an amazing body of work, and had an unusually long life as a practicing commercial designer. Jane Audas takes a look at her life, with objects from MoDA’s collections and elsewhere.

Enid Marx was a student at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in the 1920s, where women were very much in the minority. She was one of the first women to become a Royal Designer for Industry in 1944.  She was a both a collector, champion and author of two books on English popular and traditional art – a huge influence on her and her fellow designers around the Festival of Britain in 1951.  She was also a pattern designer of unrivalled talent.

By all accounts a strong and opinionated character, Marx never achieved the accolades due her in her lifetime. Her male contemporaries like Edward Bawden, Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious have had plenty of books published about them. Their designs have been much reproduced and are highly collectable. It is only posthumously that Marx’s work has begun to be noticed. A major book and exhibition in summer 2018 will rectify the omission and doubtless add value to Marx’s work.

Marx attended the RCA from 1922 to 1925, gaining a place the second time she applied. Her fellow students numbered among them the aforementioned Bawden, Ravilious and a teacher in the form of Paul Nash. Marx failed her diploma there in 1925. Despite that disappointment, that same year she received her first commission from the Curwen Press to design and cut borders for sheet music, which, in turn, led Marx to design her first pattern paper.

Jane Audas is a freelance digital producer, writer and curator.