This week’s gem from the Stoddard – Templeton Design Archive is a design by Maxwell Armfield entitled Summer Trail.
Though small and not in excellent condition, this design is an interesting find in the collection, for Maxwell Armfield (1881-1972) was a notable English artist, designer and illustrator whose name is often associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, Pre-Raphaelite art and the Birmingham Group.
Armfield attended Birmingham School of Art from 1887, but later went on to work in America. His work tends to combine an admiration of the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic with the influence of Arts and Crafts ideals and of Morris’s writing and poetry in particular. Armfield was himself also known as a writer and poet, and after his marriage in 1909 to playwright Constance Smedley, the couple became close collaborators, combining theatre, illustration, writing and art and even founded their own theatre company.
If Armfield’s Self-Portrait from 1901 (above) seems familiar to you, that’s probably because it was used as the cover illustration of the Oxford World’s Classics 2006 edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Another example of Armfield’s work was used for the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 Album Then Play On (below).
Armfield’s subjects included portraits and figure compositions, often on literary themes. It might seem strange that he should also dabble in carpet design, but he had in fact also worked extensively in design for mural decoration, stained glass, framing, textile design and book illustration from his begginings as an artist. In the 1930s, he completed a series of dynamic carpet designs for Crosby & Sons and Tomkinson Ltd, examples of which are now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The design we have in the collection is likely to be from around the same period, and, as such, displays some of the Art Deco tendencies of the time.
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