Maxwell Armfield was a painter, illustrator and writer who was born in Hampshire in 1881. He received his art training at Birmingham School of Art, studying under Arthur Gaskin and Henry Payne. During his time there he was introduced to the work of Fra Angelico and Arthur Gaskin, who inspired his interest in tempera painting, as well as the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolists. In 1902 he enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris where he studied under Gustave Courtois and René Menard, and, two years later, he exhibited the painting Faustine at the Paris Salon. He returned to London soon after and began showing in both solo and group exhibitions, contributing regularly at the Royal Academy. In 1906 he shared an exhibition with Gaston Lachaise at the Rowling Galleries and another at the Fine Art Society with members of the Birmingham group the following year. He also exhibited with the New English Art Club in 1907.
Armfield’s first solo exhibition took place in 1908, at the Carfax Gallery and, in 1909, he married the playwright Constance Smedley with whom he collaborated on various projects involving design, illustration, text and theatre. During this period, he prioritised writing over painting, working on several books, such as A Manual on Tempera Painting in 1930. He painted more following his wife’s death in 1941 and his work from this later period, in particular, reflects his interest in occult and esoteric religion.
Although Armfield’s work was neglected for many years following World War II, he witnessed a revival of interest in 1970 when the Fine Art Society held an exhibition of his work entitled Homage to Maxwell Armfield. This was followed by a ninetieth-birthday celebration exhibition in 1971.