Exhibition of prolific East Ham artist Madge Gill launches

PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 June 2012 | UPDATED: 09:35 27 June 2012

Imaginative work of Madge Gill

Imaginative work of Madge Gill


She is regarded as an important artist of the 20th century, a member of the “outsider art” movement who produced works in various media, including knitting, embroidery and rug-making.

Her drawings in black or coloured inks ranged from small postcard-size to large works on calico.

Now in a major respective exhibition, some of the rarely seen works of Madge Gill (1982-1961) – one of Newham’s favourite daughters – is revealed at Bow Arts Nunnery Gallery.

This show uncovers many patterns in her work which indicate her fragile mental state following a traumatic childhood – orphaned, sent to Canada as a child worker before returning to east London and marrying her cousin.

Gill started to produce drawings and embroidery on paper and calico, but her adulthood was beset by the grief which it is believed inspired her work.

She lost a son to Spanish ’flu, which cost her the sight in one eye. She gave birth to a stillborn daughter and her husband died.


Gill was prolific in her production of sketches and drawings right up until the late 1950s.

She died in East Ham in 1961.

The majority of Gill’s work – 300-plus pieces – is held in an archive by Newham Council but this is the first time a comprehensive retrospective, showing many unseen works, has been put together.

Artist, writer and curator Deanna Petherbridge, and local historian/Whitechapel Gallery archivist Gary Haines have contributed to the research for this exhibition and will host talks and walks for those interested in finding out more about this remarkable icon of east London.

The exhibition will run in three consecutive 10-week shows until early 2013 (Wed - Sun, 9am - 5pm) with an artist commissioned to respond creatively to Gill’s drawings.

n The Nunnery is at 183 Bow Road, Bow. Call 020 7538 1719 for further information.

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