Harold Gilman

Madeleine Knox


Not on display

Harold Gilman 1876–1919
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 608 × 454 × 16 mm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 2010

Display caption

This portrait of artist Madeleine Knox gives little away about her profession or character. Instead, the quiet domestic setting, gentle colours and dappled brushwork create a meditative atmosphere. Knox’s thoughtful pose is enigmatic: she fingers her coat but it is unclear whether she has just returned from somewhere, or is about to leave. Gilman died in the post-war influenza epidemic at the age of 43.

Gallery label, October 2020

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Catalogue entry



In this painting a young woman stands by a stone fireplace with her head lowered, absent-mindedly fingering her coat. Above the mantelpiece is a large but cropped gilt-framed mirror that reveals very little from its dark reflection; the gold is echoed in the buttons that punctuate the dark expanse of the woman’s jacket and dress. The complementary colours of green and red dominate the painting, with the red-brown of the figure’s clothing contrasting with the predominantly cream-green colours of the wallpaper. A strong light casts a dark shadow on to the fireplace and wallpaper immediately behind the figure.
Although ostensibly a portrait, there are few clues about the woman’s character or background. The setting is ambiguous: is this a living room or a bedroom (the piece of furniture to the left of the figure could be a sofa or a bed)? Although the mood of the painting is calm and introspective, the figure is also wearing a jacket and shoes: is she about to leave the room or has she just returned?

Women in interiors

When first exhibited in 1934 this painting was entitled Interior with Standing Figure (it was not to be identified as a portrait of Madeline Knox until the 1950s). Gilman depicted lone women in interiors throughout his career; see, for example, such early works as Edwardian Interior c.1907 (Tate T00096, fig.1), French Interior c.1907 (Tate N05783) and Lady on a Sofa c.1910 (Tate N05831), and, later, Head of a Girl c.1911 (fig.2), The Coral Necklace 1914 (fig.3) and Girl with a Teacup c.1914–15 (private collection).1 In Girl by a Mantelpiece 1914 (Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent),2 a young girl stands next to the same fireplace; the glass ornament behind her could be the same as the object that sits on the mantelpiece behind Madeline Knox in Tate’s painting.

Madeline Knox relates to another work by Gilman of the same period, Meditation 1910–11 (fig.4). Indeed, the art historian Wendy Baron has suggested that both works may depict Knox,3 the figures appearing to have similar hairstyles and facial characteristics. However, Tate cataloguer Nicola Moorby has stated that the figure in Meditation is thought to be Gilman’s neighbour in Letchworth, Signe Parker.4 Contemporary photographs of Knox and Parker reveal that the two women looked quite different, Knox being smaller and with a more slender face, confirming that Meditation is a portrait of Parker rather than Knox (figs.5 and 6). Nevertheless, the two paintings have a similar composition, presenting full-length views of women in domestic interiors with dark shadows cast on the wall behind them. Although the mood of Meditation is rather more sombre, both have an introspective atmosphere.

Madeline Knox


Helena Bonett
December 2010


Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, Aldershot and Vermont 2000, no.5, and Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2008 (53).
Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group, London 1979, p.138. Baron notes that Study c.1910 also depicts Knox; reproduced at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/col/work/3980, accessed 1 December 2010.
Nicola Moorby, ‘Meditation’, in Tate Britain 2008 (42).
Frank Rutter, ‘Foreword’, in Post-Impressionist and Futurist Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Doré Galleries, London 1913, [p.2].
Louis F. Fergusson, ‘Harold Gilman’, in Wyndham Lewis and Louis F. Fergusson, Harold Gilman: An Appreciation, London 1919, p.28.
Gilman painted Gore on a number of occasions. See, for instance, the c.1911–12 portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London, http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/largerimage.php?firstRun=true&sText=Spencer+Gore+gilman&search=sp&rNo=0, accessed 28 January 2011.
Gilman painted Karlowska on a number of occasions. See, for example, the c.1913 portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London, http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/largerimage.php?firstRun=true&sText=karlowska+gilman&search=sp&rNo=0, accessed 28 January 2011.
1912 (Southampton City Art Gallery); reproduced in Tate Britain 2008 (48).
Biographical information on Knox is from Wendy Baron, Camden Town Recalled, exhibition catalogue, Fine Art Society, London 1976, pp.35–6, Baron 1979, p.138, and Tate N05088.
See Tate N03181.
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson and Ethel Sands, [December 1910], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.75.
Baron 1979, p.138.
Clifton and Sickert fell out over Clifton’s affair with Knox. See Matthew Sturgis, Walter Sickert: A Life, London 2005, pp.502–3.
‘Art Exhibitions’, Morning Post, 30 October 1916. Press cutting inside Knox’s exhibition catalogue in Tate Archive, TGA 8721/26.
‘The Drawing Room. Fine Art. Water-colour Drawings by Miss Madeline Knox’, publication unknown. Press cutting inside Knox’s exhibition catalogue in Tate Archive, TGA 8721/26.
Sir Claude Phillips, ‘Carfax Gallery’, Daily Telegraph, 31 October 1916. Press cutting inside Knox’s exhibition catalogue in Tate Archive, TGA 8721/26.
Information from Joanna Lister, National Trust, email to Tate, 3 February 2004.
Frances Stenlake, Robert Bevan: From Gauguin to Camden Town, London 2008, p.84.

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