Machell, Reginald Willoughby (1854–1927)
Artist and theosophist, born on June 20, 1854, in Crackenthorpe,
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.