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Machell, Reginald Willoughby (1854-1927)

Machell, Reginald Willoughby (1854-1927)

Artist and theosophist, born on June 20, 1854, in Cracken-thorpe, Westmoreland, England. His father was the canon at York Cathedral. Machell attended Owen's College, Manchester, where he was an outstanding student in the classics and in art. In 1875 he moved to London and then Paris to pursue artistic endeavors and won prizes at the Academy de Juliens. In 1880 he settled in London as a professional painter, successfully specializing in portraits.

In 1887 Machell encountered Theosophy and found himself immediately drawn to it. He soon met Helena Petrovona Blavatsky, cofounder of the Theosophical Society, and joined that organization. He redecorated the facilities at 19 Avenue Rd., Regents Park, where Blavatsky moved in 1890, and she invited him to move his studio into the same building. He designed the urn that held Blavatsky's ashes following her death and cremation in 1891.

Machell's art took on a mystical/Gnostic cast and realism gave way to symbolism. He soon produced some of his most famous paintings, including Dweller on the Threshold, The Birth of the Planet and Lead Kindly Light. In 1900 he moved to the United States and joined the theosophical community at Point Loma, San Diego, California, established by the independent American branch of the Theosophical Society by Katherine Tingley. Over the next years he worked on the decor of the buildings, wrote articles for the community's periodical, The Theosophical Path, and did numerous illustrations for the Path. His painting "The Path" was used as the cover art of the journal for many years.

Machell died at Point Loma on October 9, 1927.

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