The Celtic Revival via Image and Text

The Evergreen: A Manifesto

The semi-annual magazine by Patrick Geddes and Colleagues was a resource for “cultural evolution”. The Evergreen simultaneously advocated for movements like the Scottish Renascence, Pan-Celticism, the arts-and-crafts movement, and urban renewal of green space in order to articulate an image of an idealized modern world. Geddes’ goal was a “… crusade with the humanitarian object of cultural evolution which would be produced by an interaction of environment, modern knowledge and the historically determined values of the people”. As a result of his beliefs, Geddes birthed the applied science of Civics: a system that improves the living conditions of people all over the world that is dependent on the opportunities and limitations of each geographical situation. As an “organ of the Celtic Revival” and primary source for Civics, I observed how The Evergreen promoted artists and writers by positioning them as a part of a greater manifesto for the Scottish Renascence and Celtic Revival. Namely, The Evergreen used an unconventional publication structure and Celtic textual ornamentation to symbolize contributors’ role as advocates for the revival of the modern world via Celtic art and tradition.


The Celtic Revival via Image

I found that The Celtic Revival was predominantly focused in the Celtic ornamentation of The Evergreen’s pages. The borders of the magazine contained Celtic art that existed collaboratively with the text on the page on which the art was located. Basic elements of Celtic art consisted of spirals, key patterns, interlaced patterns, and vine spirals. Interlaced patterns were especially common for border decoration; and The Evergreen included a heavy amount of interlaced ornamentation in its art. Celtic art was “… always conventional – it never attempts to represent anything on earth in a natural way and exactly as that thing appears … beasts in Celtic art are not real beasts but purely imaginary”. In particular, I found that the textual ornamentation for “Between the Ages” includes estranged animals as a part of an interlaced pattern for the text’s border. Like all Celtic art, the interlaced pattern for “Between the Ages” does not acknowledge an end to the pattern and depicts the pattern as holding an infinite existence that begins and continues through the imagined beasts.

"Between the Ages" by Nimmo Christie
“Between the Ages” by Nimmo Christie

I also see The Evergreen as a symbolic vehicle for the promotion of Geddes and Colleagues’ ideas for societal change. Geddes assisted to establish the arts-and-crafts movement in Scotland: a movement that sought to revive craftsmanship in the decorative arts in a world where mechanization and mass production degraded the quality and value of an object. Thus, the use of decorative Celtic art in The Evergreen was political. The magazine’s art connected itself to the historical traditions of craftsmanship and Celtic art “in the service of a moral ideal” for the betterment of society.