Iris in the Arbor

St Marie

For her Master of Research in Creative Practices thesis, Adriane Greig deconstructed a title from the GSA Library’s Glasgow Style Collection: Jessie M. King’s The Life of Saint Mary Magdalen, published by John Lane in 1904. Adriane explains:

In my thesis entitled, The Iris in the Arbor: the Contexts of Jessie M. King’s Cover Design for The Life of Saint Mary Magdalen, I discuss the feminist subtext inherent in the image from the Glasgow School of Art library collection. Learning more about the contexts of the image can elucidate the subtext as well as the symbolism used in this image.

In the paper, I use interpretive biography as a methodology with which the iconography of the image is analyzed. Image as biography is first discussed in order to use interpretive biography as a methodology. Then the paper delves into the image itself.

First presented is a brief summary of biographical stories of Mary Magdalene to illustrate the point that the book presents a unique perspective on the Magdalene’s life. Then I write about a brief history of feminism in the 20th century, which is used to draw a relationship between the design, Jessie M. King, and feminist themes. After that, I discuss the Glasgow Girls, and a brief biography of the people important to the production of the book, included also is a look at the images inside the book.

Together these components help to prove that Jessie M. King created her own visual vocabulary representing the Magdalene, dependent on her subjective point of view and of her own contemporary changing world. The result of analyzing these contexts and components is my assertion that Jessie M. King included feminist themes and symbols in this work- bodily representing woman as well as carefully crafting a new identity for the saint Mary Magdalene.


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