Opus Anglicanum - The Evelyn Thomas Database of Medieval English Embroidery

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Evelyn ThomasEvelyn Thomas was born at Windsor in England in 1951. Familiarity with the visual arts occurred from the start; both his parents were practicing artists. His father taught the subject at Eton College, where he directed the Drawing Schools from 1958 to 1972. Evelyn’s interest in medieval art was first awakened through experience of the historic settings of, St Georges School, Windsor Castle and Eton College. It was however as a student of history of art at Edinburgh University, inspired especially by the teaching of George Henderson, that this became the primary focus. Leaving Edinburgh, with a first, Evelyn spent two years doing his masters at the University of East Anglia supervised by Eric Fernie. He was, however to follow another inspirational teacher from UEA, Nigel Morgan, to Westfield College, University of London to undertake research into opus anglicanum. In 1978 and as part of this work, Evelyn produced the photographic archive of English embroidery, now available through this website.

Providing for a growing family, caused Evelyn’s career to move in a different direction; thus from 1979 he took up the general teaching of history of art to secondary school pupils, first on a part time basis at King’s College School and at Mill Hill School, but from 1984 as a full time teacher at Malvern Girls’ College. Here, he was to find fulfillment, in introducing and frequently inspiring students to follow the unfamiliar discipline of art history with enthusiasm, often enhanced by the impact of the study trips abroad that he led. From 2004 to 2010, he also taught at Malvern College, while through most of this period of secondary school teaching, he was involved in examining art history, as Principal Examiner for the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board.

These commitments left too little opportunity for continuing the study of opus anglicanum but he has made intermittent contributions to conferences on medieval embroidery, including a recent paper on The Stylistic Development of Opus Anglicanum at the V&A Symposium in 2013.