The art of Maxwell Armfield, 1881–1972


De Profundis.

I’ve known Maxwell Armfield’s work in the past mainly for the appearance of his paintings in books of late Victorian or even Pre-Raphaelite art. His depiction of Faustine (1904), which illustrates a Swinburne poem, is probably the most popular of these, with a subject resembling Rossetti’s portraits of Jane Morris. So it’s a surprise to find his illustration work using a very different, more open style based on Ancient Greek art and (possibly) Classical enthusiasts such as John Flaxman. Among the online examples, the redoubtable Internet Archive has a few book downloads available including a volume of Armfield’s rather tepid poetry, The Hanging Garden, and other verse (1914), which nonetheless includes the fine illustrations shown here. In addition there’s a curious fable by Vernon Lee, The Ballet of the Nations; a Present-day Morality (1915) in which Death stages a ballet (aka another war) to decimate humanity, and a short book Rhythmic Shape; A Text-book of Design (1920), Armfield’s guide to art and design theory.


“Out of the East he came.”

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