Madge Gill

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Madge Gill
Known forPen and ink

Madge Gill (1882–1961), born Maude Ethel Eades, was an English outsider and visionary artist.[1][2]

Early years[edit]

Born an illegitimate child in East Ham, Essex, (now Greater London), she spent much of her early years in seclusion and was placed in an orphanage at the age of 9, because her family couldn't stand the embarrassment. At age 14 she was sent to Canada by the Dr. Barnardo's Homes as a British Home Child, along with other orphans, to work on a farm. She remained there until she was 18 before moving back to East Ham to live with her aunt, who introduced her to Spiritualism and astrology. During that time, she found work as a nurse at Whipps Cross Hospital, in Leytonstone. At the age of 25, she married her cousin, Thomas Edwin Gill, a stockbroker. Together they had three sons with their second, Reginald, dying of the Spanish flu. The following year she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl and almost died herself, contracting a serious illness that left her bedridden for several months and blind in her left eye.[1]

Artistic works[edit]

After recovering from her illness in 1920, Gill – now thirty-eight – took a sudden and passionate interest in drawing, creating thousands of allegedly mediumistic works over the following 40 years, most done with ink in black and white. The works came in all sizes, from postcard-sized to huge sheets of fabric, some over 30 feet (9.1 m) long. She claimed to be guided by a spirit she called "Myrninerest" (my inner rest) and often signed her works in this name. As American scholar Daniel Wojcik noted, "like other Spiritualists, Gill did not attribute her art to her own abilities, but considered herself to be a physical vessel through which the spirit world could be expressed."[3] However, she experimented with a wide variety of media including knitting, writing, weaving, and crochet work.[4] Extremely prolific, she was capable of completing dozens of drawings in a single night. The figure of a young woman in intricate dress appeared thousands of times in her work, and is often thought to be a representation of herself or her lost daughter, and in general female subjects dominate her work. Her drawings are characterised by geometric chequered patterns and organic ornamentation, with the blank staring eyes of female faces and their flowing clothing interweaving into the surrounding complex patterns.[5] In 1939, she exhibited one of her works at the Whitechapel Gallery. It was probably one of her largest works, measuring at 40 meters wide, covering an entire wall in the gallery. She continued to exhibit her work each year at the Whitechapel Gallery up until 1947.

Later years[edit]

She rarely exhibited her work and never sold any pieces out of fear of angering "Myrninerest". After her first son, Bob, died in 1958 she started drinking heavily and stopped drawing. Following her death in 1961, thousands of drawings were discovered in her home; the collection is owned by the London Borough of Newham and is in the care of the borough's Heritage and Archives Service.[6] Her work has been exhibited internationally at venues including The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA (1992), Manor Park Museum, London (1999), The Whitechapel Gallery, London (2006), Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava (2007), Halle Saint Pierre (Musée d'Art Brut & Art Singulier), Paris (2008, 2014), Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt a.M. (2010), Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne (2005, 2007).


From 5 October 2013 to 26 January 2014, Gill's work was displayed at the Orleans house Gallery.[citation needed]

A major trilogy of exhibitions, showing over 600 of Gill's work, many previously unseen, took place at The Nunnery Gallery in London. It opened in May 2012 and lasted until January 2013.[citation needed]

In summer 2019 Sophie Dutton curated Myrninerest at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, which included 'newly uncovered large-scale embroideries, textiles and archival objects, many of which [had] never been exhibited before.[7]

Some of her drawings are on permanent view in The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History[8], whilst others are held by the London Borough of Newham Heritage Service.


Waltham Forest Heritage commemorative plaque at 71 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17

Madge Gill, like many outsider artists, has continually been gaining fame since her death in 1961.[citation needed] Her work is part of the permanent collection at the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, one of the central venues for the exhibition and support of outsider art.[citation needed]

In 2013, admirer David Tibet, himself an outsider artist, published an antiquarian-style book solely devoted to her work, the first of its kind.[9]

On 8 March 2018 a blue plaque commemorating Gill was erected at 71 High Street, Walthamstow, where she was born in 1882 and lived until 1890.[10]


  1. ^ a b "biography - Madge Gill". Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Madge Gill : Learn About The Artists : The Collection: The Anthony Petullo Collection of SELF-TAUGHT & OUTSIDER ART". Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  3. ^ Wojcik, Daniel. "Madge Gill". Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  4. ^ Cardinal, Roger. "Madge Gill: The Magic of Madge Gill". Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  5. ^ Outsider Art Sourcebook, ed. John Maizels, Raw Vision, Watford, 2009, p.79
  6. ^ Newham Archives and Local Studies Library
  7. ^ "What's On | Exhibitions | Madge Gill | William Morris Gallery". 8 August 2019. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  8. ^ "the viktor wynd museum of curiosities". Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  9. ^ "MADGE GILL - Myrninerest book (Standard edition)". David Tibet. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  10. ^ "Meticulous Madge gets blue plaque". James Cracknell. Waltham Forest Echo. Retrieved 9 March 2018.

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