Madge Gill British, 1882-1961

Madge Gill, born Maude Ethel Eades, was an English Outsider and Visionary artist. She was born to an unmarried mother in East Ham, Essex (now Greater London). After being placed in an orphanage at the age of nine, she spent her formative years in isolation before being sent to Canada as a farm servant. Gill returned to London when she was nineteen to live with her aunt, who introduced her to astrology and Spiritualism. Gill married her cousin and together they had four children. One son succumbed to the Spanish flu in 1918 and her only daughter was stillborn in 1919. After the death of her children, Gill suffered a near fatal illness during which she lost the sight in one eye. These traumatic experiences sparked a tremendous creative outpouring and a lifetime passion for drawing. For forty years Gill feverishly produced a series of mediumistic pictures. It is thought these artworks were an attempt to contact the other side.

 

Gill worked under the control of Myrninerest (my inner rest), her spirit guide, and often signed her works in this name. Her oeuvre ranges from postcards, produced in all-night sittings, to drawings covering immense rolls of calico. These she would finish incrementally as earlier parts of the drawing would become hidden as the fabric was rolled to reveal a new blank surface. Occasionally Gill exhibited work at amateur art exhibitions in London's East End but she rarely sold her work insisting they belonged to her spirit guide.


Roger Cardinal, who coined the term Outsider Art in 1972, wrote in his biography 'The Life of Madge Gill': "Gill's frenetic improvisations have an almost hallucinatory quality, each surface being filled with checkerboard patterns that suggest giddy, quasi-architectural spaces. Afloat upon these swirling proliferations are the pale faces of discarnate and nameless women, sketched perfunctorily, albeit with an apparent concern for beauty, and with startled expressions".

 

The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow held a major exhibition of Gill's work in 2019. She is undoubtedly one of the world's most highly regarded, self-taught artists and one of the best examples of Outside art. To this day Madge Gill's art remains an enigma.