Image, Selwyn (1849–1930), designer
by Helen Caroline Jones

Image, Selwyn (1849–1930), designer, was born at Bodiam, Sussex, on 17 February 1849, the second son of the Revd John Image (1802/3–1878), vicar of Bodiam, and his first wife, Mary Maxwell, née Hinds (1807/8–1857). The family had emigrated from France on the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685. Image was educated at Brighton College and then at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, where his artistic nature was first evident. He proceeded to New College, Oxford, as an exhibitioner in 1868, graduating BA in 1872, and MA in 1875. For the rest of his life he worked in London. At Oxford, Image studied drawing under John Ruskin, who was appointed the first Slade professor of fine art in 1870. He later stated that, ‘Whatever small power of design I possess, I date the dawn of it from that lesson’ (Jervis, 246).

In 1872 Image was ordained deacon, and priest in the following year. He was successively curate of All Hallows, Tottenham (1872–7), and of St Anne's, Soho (1877–80). He continued to design and exhibited his designs for stained glass at the Paris Exhibition of 1878. In 1881 he shared a studio with Ruskin's assistant, Arthur Burgess, and resigned from holy orders the following year.

Image was interested in design of all sorts, but he became best-known for his designs for stained glass, remarkable for their austere dignity and a rare feeling for the capacities and limitations of the medium. The west window of St Luke's, Camberwell, four archangels in a window of Mortehoe church, Devon (for which he later designed a mosaic), two windows in Marlborough College chapel, and one in memory of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes in Gray's Inn chapel, are his most important works of this kind. He also designed decorative panels for the Century Guild, founded by his friend A. H. Mackmurdo in 1883, which undertook the designing of houses and furniture, and published a magazine, the Century Guild Hobby-Horse (continued as the Hobby Horse), for which Image designed the cover (1886) and to which he contributed tail-pieces as well as poems and essays. During the 1890s he designed a number of decorative title-pages, covers, and bindings for books. In 1892–3 he designed a fine Greek type for the publishers Macmillan. He also designed embroideries for the Royal School of Needlework. Image married in 1901 Janet McHale, youngest daughter of Thomas Hanwell, of London; they had no children.

In later life Image devoted much time to lecturing on art, to landscape drawing and to watercolour painting. He found his favourite motifs in Epping Forest, which he also frequented on moth-hunting expeditions, for he was an ardent entomologist and made a collection of British butterflies, exquisitely arranged and labelled, now in the Hope entomological collections at the University of Oxford Museum of Natural History. In 1894 he published Poems and Carols, and he continued writing occasional poems until his death. In 1896 he assisted with the decoration of the first harpsichord made by Arnold Dolmetsch. In 1900 Image was elected master of the Art-Workers' Guild, and in 1910 Slade professor of fine art at Oxford, holding the latter post until 1916. He was a member of the Design and Industries Association. He was happiest in lecturing on English artists, such as Thomas Bewick and Thomas Rowlandson, for whom he had special admiration. Lawrence Binyon wrote of him:
Image would have produced more original work had he not always been at the service of his friends and ready to undertake labours of love. A selection of his Poems and a selection of his Letters were published in 1932, after his death, both edited by A. H. Mackmurdo, and both containing a photographic portrait. His beautiful penmanship added to the charm of his letters. In conversation the wisdom and sweetness of his nature, his zest in life, and the fervour of his convictions, were even more intimately revealed. There was choiceness and a sense of beauty in all he wrote, said, and produced. (DNB)
He died at his home at 78 Parkhurst Road, Holloway, London, on 21 August 1930; he was survived by his wife. Drawings by him are in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; his cartoons for stained glass are in public collections at Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham, Bristol, Dublin, and Melbourne.



DNB · A. H. Mackmurdo, ed., Century Guild Hobbyhorse (1884) [engravings incl. pls. and title-page designed by S. Image] · A. H. Mackmurdo, ed., Selwyn Image letters (1932) · S. Image, The art of dancing: on a question of dress (1891) · S. Image, ‘Colour in relation to internal decoration’, National Association for the Advancement of Art Transactions (1890), 68–77 · S. Image, ‘Of designing for the art of embroidery’, in Arts and Crafts essays, Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society (1893), 414–20 · S. Image, ‘Cartoons for stained glass’, Practical designing, ed. J. White (1893), 161 · J. Mawer, ‘Image, Selwyn’, The dictionary of art, ed. J. Turner (1996) · S. Image, ‘Architecture in paintings (with discussion)’, Architectural Association Journal, 26 (1911), 112 · S. Image, introduction, in H. L. de Boisbaudran, The training of the memory in art and the education of the artist (1911) · The poems of Selwyn Image (1932) · S. Image, ‘Cosmopolitan art, a friendly dispute between Mr Selwyn Image and Mr Lewis F. Day’, Art Journal, new ser., 22 (1902), 374–5 · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1930) · S. Jervis, The Penguin dictionary of design and designers (1984) · L. F. Day, ‘How to make the most of a museum’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 56 (1907–8), 146–55 · H. J. Matthews, ed., Brighton College register, part 1, 1847–1863, with brief biographical notices (1886) · private information (2015) [M. D. W. Jones]


Bodl. Oxf., corresp., poems, and MSS · Oxf. U. Mus. NH, notebooks · Royal Entomological Society of London, entomological notebook · William Morris Gallery, London, papers |  LUL, letters and poems to T. S. Moore · V&A NAL, poems and letters to C. W. Whall


W. S. Frith, bust, Art Workers Guild, London

Wealth at death  

£185 18s. 3d.: probate, 21 Nov 1930, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

© Oxford University Press 2004–15 All rights reserved  

Selwyn Image (1849–1930): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34093