In 1907, he joined the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring, an organisation founded in 1892 by Alfred Maskell and others dissatisfied with the ethos of the Royal Photographic Society exhibitions, with the aim to promote naturalistic and aesthetic photography as an independent art.
From 1914, Arbuthnot ran a portrait studio in London's New Bond Street, in the early 20th century photographing many celebrities including the actress Lillah McCarthy, the pianist Harriet Cohen and the poet Robert Nichols. His studio, along with many of his works, was destroyed in a fire. He was a friend of George Bernard Shaw.
He married twice, and had numerous adopted children. His first marriage to Florence Emily Goold ("Daisy") ended in divorce following her adultery with the poet John Gould Fletcher, whom she later married. (The settlement from Fletcher for her upkeep was instrumental in Arbuthnot financing the launch of his London studio). His second wife Florence Annie Davison was the widow of George Davison, a millionaire through investments in Kodak, and her inherited wealth enabled the couple to retire to Jersey in 1931.
- Creative Photography: Aesthetic Trends, 1839-1960, Helmut Gernsheim, Courier Dover Publications, 1981, ISBN 0-486-26750-4
- "The Linked Ring" days, Malcolm Arbuthnot, The Photographic Journal, Royal Photographic Society, 1955
- Malcolm Arbuthnot, National Portrait Gallery page
- Modernism: An Anthology, Lawrence S Rainey, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, ISBN 0-631-20448-2
- John Taylor "Arbuthnot, Malcolm", The Oxford Companion to the Photograph, Ed. Robin Lenman, Oxford University Press, 2005, Oxford Reference Online
- Early British photography imitating art
- Fierce Solitude: A Life of John Gould Fletcher, Ben F Johnson, University of Arkansas Press, 1994, ISBN 1-55728-351-6
Media related to Malcolm Arbuthnot at Wikimedia Commons