Jump to content

Madge Gill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Madge Gill
Maud Eades

19 January 1882
Walthamstow, England
Died28 January 1961(1961-01-28) (aged 79)
Leytonstone, England
Known forPen and ink

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

Early years[edit]

Maude Ethel Eades was born on 19 January 1882, in East Ham, Essex, (now Greater London). She was considered an illegitimate child and spent much of her early years in seclusion because her family couldn't stand the embarrassment. At age nine, despite her mother still being alive, she was placed in Dr. Barnardo's Girls' Village Home orphanage at Barkingside, Ilford, Essex.[1]

In 1896, she was sent to Canada by Dr. Barnardo's Homes as a British Home Child, arriving aboard the S.S. Scotsman as one of a group of 254 children destined to become farm labourers and domestic servants for Canadian families.[3] Upon arrival at Quebec City, she and the other girls in her travel party were taken by train to Barnardo's Hazelbrae Home in Peterborough, Ontario before being sent out on placements as domestics.[4] Her name, Maud Eades, can be found inscribed on the "Additions and Corrections" side panel installed on the Hazelbrae Barnardo Home Memorial in Peterborough in 2019.[5] After spending her teenage years working as a domestic servant and caregiver for young children on a series of Ontario farms, she managed to move back to East Ham in 1900 to live with her aunt, who introduced her to Spiritualism and astrology.[1][6] 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; their second son Reginald, died 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]

During 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."[7] However, she experimented with a wide variety of media including knitting, writing, weaving, and crochet work.[8] 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.[9]

In 1922, Gill became a patient of Dr Helen Boyle after Thomas Gill contacted the Essex Voluntary Association for the Blind, concerned for his wife's mental health. Dr Boyle admitted Gill for treatment at the Lady Chichester Hospital in Hove, known for progressive and kind treatment of women, and is thought to have been encouraging about Gill's creation of art.[10]

In 1939, she exhibited one of her works at the Whitechapel Gallery. It was probably one of her largest works, measuring 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]

Gill rarely exhibited her work and never sold any pieces out of fear of angering "Myrninerest".[11] After her firstborn 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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14]

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".[15]

Some of her drawings are on permanent view in The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History,[16] whilst others are held by the London Borough of Newham Heritage Service.


Waltham Forest Heritage commemorative plaque at 71 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17
Reproduction from one of Gill's work on a bridge over Bow Creek, London, part of The Line art trail

Madge Gill, like many outsider artists, has continually been gaining fame since her death in 1961.[17] 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.[18]

In 2013, admirer David Tibet, himself an outsider artist, published an antiquarian-style book solely devoted to her work, the first of its kind.[19] Tibet's musical project with James Blackshaw, active in 2012, was named Myrninerest.

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.[20]

In 2021, an exhibition Nature in mind curated by Sophie Dutton and consisting of 20 reproductions of her work was installed at various locations in east London as part of The Line art trail.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d "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. ^ "Maud Eades (129744)". Library and Archives Canada: Home Children (1869-1932). Government of Canada. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Maud Eades". British Home Child Registry. BHCARA. 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  5. ^ Jessica Niznik (1 August 2019). "Tour the British home children sites in Peterborough on Saturday". The Peterborough Examiner. Peterborough, Ontario. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  6. ^ Frank, Priscilla (20 November 2014). "A Brief And Visually Stunning Primer To Outsider Art". HuffPost. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  7. ^ Wojcik, Daniel (7 March 2018). "Madge Gill". Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  8. ^ Cardinal, Roger. "Madge Gill: The Magic of Madge Gill". Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  9. ^ Outsider Art Sourcebook, ed. John Maizels, Raw Vision, Watford, 2009, p.79
  10. ^ Madge Gill by Myrninerest. Dutton, Sophie. [London]. 2019. ISBN 978-1-912722-34-1. OCLC 1124556488.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Meet Mrs. Madge Gill: The Outsider Artist Who Painted through the Spirit World". Messy Nessy Chic. 28 January 2020. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  12. ^ Newham Archives and Local Studies Library
  13. ^ "Madge Gill: Medium & Visionary at the Orleans House Gallery 2013 – Madge Gill". Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Bow arts presents Madge Gill at The Nunnery Gallery 2012 – Madge Gill". Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  15. ^ "What's On | Exhibitions | Madge Gill | William Morris Gallery". 8 August 2019. Archived from the original on 8 August 2019. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  16. ^ "the viktor wynd museum of curiosities". www.thelasttuesdaysociety.org. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  17. ^ Murdoch, Rosie (8 May 2019). "Artistic apparitions: the spirited works of Madge Gill". Art UK. Public Catalogue Foundation. Retrieved 14 June 2024.
  18. ^ "Collection de l'Art Brut - Gill, Madge". Art Brut. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  19. ^ "MADGE GILL - Myrninerest book (Standard edition)". DavidTibet.com. David Tibet. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Meticulous Madge gets blue plaque". James Cracknell. Waltham Forest Echo. 5 March 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Walk on the wild side: Madge Gill brings flashes of colour to a landscape of grey". The Guardian. 18 June 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2021.

External links[edit]