English, 20th century.
Born 1882, London, England; died 1961, London.
Madge Gill is one of the original Spiritualist mediums whose spirit drawings were recognized and included in the category of art brut. As is often the case with Outsider Artists, the power of her work was shaped by her choice to respond to adversity with courage and creativity. Born Maude Ethyl Eades in London's East End in 1882 to a single mother, Gill was placed in an orphanage at the age of 9. At age 14 she was shipped to Canada and forced to work as an indentured servant, but was able to return to England four years later and found work as a nurse in London. She married, but suffered further losses with the deaths of two of her four children, as well as the loss of one eye following a severe illness. Like many working class people of her generation, Gill turned to Spiritualism. At age 38 she became a well-known medium, facilitating seances in partnership with her spirit-guide "Myrninnerest." Gill channeled Myrninnerest in a trance through music, knitting, writing, and especially her practice of drawing.
Gill is best known for her hundreds of post-card size drawings of Myrninnerest, and also produced large scale works on rolls of calico. Her compositions typically feature her spirit-guide's face hovering in a vertiginous, labyrinthine world shaped by a shifting system of checkerboards and cross-hatches. Outsider Art scholar Roger Cardinal has asked us to see in this composite compositional mode--found in the work of Gill and a number of other Outsider mediums--not a failure to render perspective or a symptom of eccentricity, but instead a rare glimpse into a realm Andre Breton called "the Beyond."
- Jenifer P. Borum
2013, Madge Gill: Medium and Visionary, Orleans House Gallery, London
2012, Accidental Genius: Art From the Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
2010, The Museum of Everything, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin
2008, British Outsider Art, Halle Saint-Pierre, Paris
2006, Inner Worlds Outside, traveling exhibition, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundacíon "La Caixa," Madrid; WhiteChapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
2005, Dubuffet & Art Brut, traveling exhibition, Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, Germany; Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne; Museum of Modern Art Lille Metropole, Villeneuve-D'ascq, France
1992, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Musgrave Kinley Collection, Whitworth Gallery, Manchester
Cardinal, Roger, "Madge Gill: Postcards from the Spirit World," Raw Vision, No. 80, Winter 2013.
Stone, Lisa, ed., Accidental Genius: Art From the Anthony Petullo Collection, exhibition catalogue, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, 2012.
The Museum of Everything, exhibition catalogue, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli & Electa, Turin/Milan, 2010.
Lusardy, Martine, British Outsider Art, exhibition catalogue, Halle Saint Pierre, Paris, 2008.
Inner Worlds Outside, exhibition catalogue, Fundacíon "La Caixa," WhiteChapel Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art & Ediciones El Viso, Madrid, 2006.
Dubuffet & Art Brut, exhibition catalogue, 5 Continents & Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, 2005.
Cardinal, Roger et al., Art spirite, médiumnique et visionnaire, messages d'outre monde, Halle Saint-Pierre & Éditions Hoëbeke, 1999.
Cardinal, Roger, "The Art of Entrancement: European Mediumistic Art in the Outsider Domain," Raw Vision, No. 2, Winter 1989-90.
Thévoz, Michel, Art Brut, Rizzoli, New York, 1976.
Cardinal, Roger, L'Art Brut, Fascicule 9, Compagnie de l'Art Brut, Paris, 1973.