Born into a distinguished Quaker family, Joseph Edward Southall (English, 1861–1944) was educated at Friends’ schools and then trained as an architect with the firm Martin & Chamberlain while studying painting part-time at the Birmingham School of Art. At both of the latter institutions he was immersed in the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement, which inspired him to travel throughout Europe for a closer study of crafts and painting. In Italy Southall was captivated by the frescoes of the Renaissance painters and intrigued by an article in which John Ruskin extolled the virtues of tempera painting—a discipline that Southall pursued enthusiastically on his return to Birmingham. In 1901, with John Dickson Batten, William Holman Hunt, and Walter Crane, he cofounded the Society of Painters in Tempera, spurring a revival of tempera painting.
An associate of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, Southall also remained in close contact with faculty and students of the Birmingham School of Art, many of whom became members of his influential Birmingham Group of Artist-Craftsmen. Southall’s work was exhibited widely in Europe and the United States, and he was elected to the Art Workers Guild, the Union Internationale des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres, and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, which he served as president. He is also remembered for his lifelong dedication to pacifism.
Southall’s painting Ariadne in Naxos recalls the Greek myth in which Ariadne helps Theseus escape the labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur, only to be abandoned by Theseus on the island of Naxos; here Ariadne awakens from sleep to realize she has been betrayed. In New Lamps for Old Southall included two members of the Birmingham Group, Charles March Gere and (foreground, in turban) his close friend Arthur Gaskin.