Arthur Lasenby Liberty  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty (August 13, 1843May 11, 1917) was a London merchant. Born in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, England, the son of a draper, he began work at sixteen with his uncle who sold lace, and later, another uncle who sold wine. By 1859 he was apprenticed to a draper, but he instead took a job at Farmer and Rogers which specialized in women's fashions. He quickly rose to manager of the warehouse.

After Farmer and Rogers refused to make him a partner in their business, in 1875, he opened his own shop, Liberty & Co. in Regent Street, London. There, he sold ornaments, fabrics and miscellaneous art objects from the Far East.

Liberty & Co. first catered for an eclectic mixture of popular styles, but then went on to develop a fundamentally different style closely linked to the aesthetic movement of the 1890s called Art Nouveau (the "new art"). The company became synonymous with this new style to the extent that in Italy, Art Nouveau became known as Stile Liberty after the London shop. The company's selection of printed and dyed fabrics, particularly silks and satins, was noted for its range of subtle and "artistic" colours and was highly esteemed for dress fabrics, especially during the decades from 1890 to 1920.

Arthur Liberty married Emma Louise Blackmore in 1875. They had no children. Before he died, Liberty had amassed a small fortune as a majority shareholder in Liberty & Co. (it had become a public limited liability company in 1890). He left a manor house, several cottages and a large area of farmland near his birthplace in Buckinghamshire. He was knighted in 1913.

His gravestone was designed by Archibald Knox, one of Liberty & Co.'s long-standing designers.





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