The art collection housed in Campion Hall is largely indebted to Fr Martin D'Arcy, and best described in his words (with extracts from his "Treasure Hunting" essay).
Many reasons have impelled me in this pursuit. [i] One is that the Jesuits have been so often denigrated - at time quite unfairly - for their lack of taste. Campion Hall would prove that this bad taste is not so common as believed in the works of the Society of Jesus. [ii] Then too, Oxford has claimed to be the Athens of the modern world, and I have found people from all the countries I have visited, looking up to it as a paragon of culture. When Lutyens said that he had done no work in Oxford and was anxious to have the opportunity. I was made happy because in some people's estimate he was among the greatest architects since Wren, and Campion Hall would take its place amidst the other outstanding triumphs of Oxford architecture. [iii] But beyond these considerations is that of the vast importance beauty does and should play in the Catholic faith. Possibly more glimpse the truth and reality of the Chriristian religion and it liturgy and devotions through beauty than by reason.
I was very lucky to have a number of good friends who helped me in one way or another (including artists of the calibre of Frank Brangwyn, Eric Gill, Augustus John and Laurence Whistler) as examples. Nicolette Binyon, the daughter of Laurence Binyon and later wife of Basil Gray, brought me along some modern pieces, which I was able to buy before the reputation of their makers had risen skyhigh (specifically, drawings by Rouault and engraving by David Jones). One of the dons, Holroyd, whose father had been the Director of the National Gallery, brought along a Bassano, "Carrying of the Cross" (now displayed in the Common Room).
Among the lucky finds, I must count the large 17th century Spanish carving of St Ignatius and his first companions. I was to catch the after-lunch from London to Southampton and then board a liner to New York. Sir Edwin Lutyens was at the time engaged on his plans for Campion Hall, and he lunched with me before setting out. While waiting for lunch he pulled a photograph out of his pocket and said that a friend of his (Mr Maurice Wilkinson), to whom the original of the photo belonged, felt it ought to be in a Catholic church or institution. Did I think it would suit Abp. Downey and the new Catholic cathedral in Liverpool for which he had prepared plans. To my astonishment I saw a carving of St Ignatius unusually beautiful and with his first companions so clearly delineated that the first two Jesuit cardinals were even visible. I immediately told Lutyens that the obvious place for it was Campion Hall, and he not only agreed but took care that it could be fitted into the wall in a suitable spot. (This is the first and major art work that greets visitors to the Hall).