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Maxwell Ashby Armfield RWS

(Ringwood, Hampshire 1881-1972 London)


White and Black, c.1930


tempera on panel

signed lower right with the artist’s monogram

14 x 9.5 cm.


Provenance

Maxwell Ashby Armfield until

with The Fine Art Society, London, October 1971, (no. A3/40),

Private collection, UK until 2024.


Armfield studied at Birmingham School of Art from 1899–1902, where the influence of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement was still strong, and then in Paris at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In 1905 he moved to London and from 1915 to 1922 lived in the USA. He wrote two books on the art of tempera painting – ‘A Manual of Tempera Painting’ (1930) and ‘Tempera Painting Today’ (1946). He was married to the playwright Constance Smedley, a ‘lavender’ marriage and meeting of minds, rather than a conventional set-up. The couple settled in the Cotswolds where they wrote and illustrated books together. They founded the theatre group the Cotswold Players with a philosophy of communal, democratic art and in 1911 the concept of a pageant was put forward. These fashionable dramas told the history of a particular community and it was decided that there would be a local 'Pageant of Progress'. Max was the pageant's official artist and months of planning resulted in a huge success. Following a period in Chelsea where they established the radical avant-garde theatre company Greenleaf Theatre and mixed with an anti-war community they left for the USA in 1915 to make a life for themselves away from the war, where they stayed until 1922. After some years of weakening health and diminishing finances, Connie died of heart failure in 1941, but Max continued to paint until his death in 1972, latterly living with his relative Stuart Armfield, also a painter, and enjoying a relationship with bookshop owner, Alexander Ballard.

Source: Tessa West, writer and author of A Pageant Truly Play’d:A Biography of Constance Smedley and Maxwell Armfield’

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