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Armfield, Maxwell (1882-1972)
by Scholes, Robert


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Modernist Journals Project
Box 1597, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912
Robert_Scholes@brown.edu

Maxwell Armfield (1882 - 1972)

This excellent biographical sketch came from the former artmagick.com website which unfortunately no longer exists:

Born at Ringwood of Quaker parents, his father being a milling engineer, Armfield entered the Birmingham School of Art in 1899. There he came under the influence of Henry Payne, Gaskin, and Southall, who taught him the tempera technique he was to practice for the rest of his life, and was deeply impressed by the Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Art Gallery. In September 1902, after visiting Italy at the suggestion of Gaskin, he went to Paris, enrolling at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and sharing a studio with three other students — Norman Wilkinson (also from Birmingham), Keith Henderson and the sculptor Gaston Lachaise. In 1904 his painting Faustine, inspired by the English poet Algernon Swinburne, was bought for the Luxembourg.

Returning from London the following year, he embarked on a series of one-man exhibitions that were henceforth to mark his career, showing first at Robert Ross's Carfax Gallery (1908, 1912), subsequently at the Leicester Galleries and elsewhere, as well as contributing regularly to the Royal Academy, New English Art Club and Royal Watercolour Society (member since 1941). In 1909 he married the writer Constance Smedley, with whom he was to work closely until her death in 1941. In 1915 they left for an intensely active and successful seven year spell in America. Armfield was not only a painter but a prolific illustrator and versatile decorative artist, while being deeply involved in theatre, music, teaching and journalism and writing some twenty books, including poetry, accounts of foreign travel, and such textbooks as the much-acclaimed Manual of Tempera Painting (dedicated to Southall, 1930).

He was also a tireless researcher into occult religions, and passionately interested in the formal and philosophical basis of art. Neglected for many years after the Second World War, he lived to see a revival of interest in his work before his death at the age of ninety-one in 1972.

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