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    Sale 13731

    Brian Sewell - Critic & Collector

    27 September 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 94

    Maxwell Ashby Armfield, R.W.S. (Ringwood, Hampshire 1881-1972 Warminster, Wiltshire)

    'With the Dawn Loud they heard the surges roar stood by the sea'

    Price Realised  


    Maxwell Ashby Armfield, R.W.S. (Ringwood, Hampshire 1881-1972 Warminster, Wiltshire)
    'With the Dawn Loud they heard the surges roar stood by the sea'
    signed with initials and dated 'MA/ 10' (with a cartouche), and inscribed as title (in the lower margin)
    pencil, pen and ink and watercolour and bodycolour heightened with gum arabic, unframed
    13¼ x 10½ in. (33.7 x 26.8 cm.)

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    The story of Aucassin and Nicolette is an anonymous chantefable, a combination of prose and verse, and probably dates from the late 12th or early 13th Century. It is known from only one surviving manuscript, discovered in 1752. The story centres on Aucassin, the son of Count Garin of Beaucaire, and Nicolette, a Saracen slave girl adopted by the Count. They fall in love, and Nicolette is banished while Aucassin is imprisoned to stop him following her. After many romantic and sometimes farcical adventures, Nicolette is discovered to be a Saracen princess and the lovers wed. This watercolour illustrates the lovers reunited after their separation, about to board a ship and flee from the Count.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Maxwell Ashby Armfield was a painter, illustrator and writer, central in the Arts and Crafts movement focused around Birmingham in the early 20th Century. Born at Ringwood, Hampshire, he studied at Birmingham School of Art under Henry Payne (1868-1940) and Arthur Gaskin (1862-1928), where he came into contact with the Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist movements which influenced his decorative style. Additionally he was taught tempera painting by Joseph Southall (1861-1944) at his studio in Edgbaston. In 1902 he moved to Paris to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, an independent academy which rejected the strict rules of academic painting set by the École des Beaux-Arts, and shaped his anti-academic illustrative style. Following his marriage in 1909 to the author and playwright Constance Smedley (1876-1941), the two became close collaborators combining design, illustration, text and theatre.

    The majority of the present group of drawings were executed to illustrate Sylvia’s Travels, written by his wife and published in 1911. Sylvia, the daughter of a woodcutter who lives in a remote woodland, befriends a Magic Bird which comes to her cottage in the night and encourages her to explore the world. Travelling through the country which is largely populated by animals, Sylvia stays in the Castle as the guest of the King and Queen and defeats the monstrous Hobby Beasts whose spell has imprisoned the Princess Hildur, before returning to her father. Perfectly demonstrating the Armfields’ symbiotic working relationship, Sylvia’s Travels contains sixteen coloured plates and two half-tone plates tipped in, and twenty-one line illustrations incorporated into the text. The eleven watercolours included here account for over half of the full colour plates.

    Two of the drawings were intended for The Armfields’ Animal-Book, published in 1922 with eight colour plates following the success of their Flower Book. Neither of the present drawings were in fact published, with Armfield choosing much simpler compositions for the final work.

    The first drawing of the group is an illustration to the medieval romance Aucassin and Nicolette, translated from the old French by Eugene Mason, and published in 1910. With its elaborately decorative style and flat perspective it perfectly captures the era of the text.