Born an illegitimate child, Madge Gill was first hidden by her mother and her aunt. At the age of nine she was sent to an orphanage. In 1903 she became a nurse and lived with her aunt, who initiated her to spiritualism and astrology. At the age of twenty-five she married her cousin, Thomas Edwin Gill. Together they had three sons but the second, Reginald, died of the Spanish flu. The following year Madge gave birth to a stillborn baby girl.
She was taken ill, spent several months in bed and lost the sight of her left eye. From then on her drawings and her connection with “Myrninerest” - the guiding spirit who inspired her writings, her embroideries and her piano improvisations - kept her alive. She worked by candlelight, creating ink drawings in all sizes, from postcards to large sheets of fabric, some over eleven metres. She is the only subject of her representations, never showing her entire body, only her face, forever repeated. After the death of her son Bob in 1958 she started drinking, stopped drawing, letting go of her life. As she never wanted to sell her drawings, it was only after her death, in 1961, that hundreds of drawings were discovered in her home, piled up in cupboards and under her bed.
SEE ALSO :
Lusardy, Martine, ed. Art spirite, médiumnique et visionnaire. Messages d’outre monde. Texts by Roger Cardinal, Laurent Danchin, Martine Lusardy, Bertrand Méheust, Djohar Si Ahmed, Michel Thévoz. Paris : Halle Saint-Pierre & éditions Hoëbeke, 1999.
Lusardy, Martine, ed. British Outsider Art. Exhibition catalogue (24 March – 1 August 2008, Halle Saint-Pierre). Paris : Halle-Saint-Pierre, 2008.
Publications de la Compagnie de l’Art Brut, fascicule 9. Text by Roger Cardinal. Paris, 1973.
The Message. Kunst und Okkultismus. Art and Occultism. Kunstmuseum Bochum and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 2007.