Oil on canvas; signed; inscribed verso
36 x 23 3/4 inches
London, Royal Academy, 1918, no. 54
Society of Women Artists, 1919
London, PM Gallery Ealing, Moments in Time, 2011.
Punch, May 1918, p 327
Carole and Peter Walker, Moments in Time, Budleigh Salterton, Wolds Publishing Limited, 2011 (illustrated p. 18).
Nina Edwards, Dressed for War, London, 2015, pp. 10-12, (illustrated p. 10)
The Observer, Feb 16 1919, p 7
Madeline Green lived and painted for most of her life in Ealing, West London, where she had a studio first in, then near, her parents’ house. She won a scholarship to the RA Schools, which she attended from 1906. She quickly found her unique style and went on to exhibit regularly at the Royal Academy, the Glasgow Institute and, unusually for a British artist, the Paris Salon. In 1925, the magazine Le Petit Parisien described one of her pictures: ‘l’étrange intérieur exsangue de Madeline Green’ (strange pale interior). The famous art dealer Joseph Duveen gave her publicity by buying her picture The Future in 1927 and giving it to the Manchester Art Gallery. Green wrote that it was ‘done in body colour underneath, and glazed with pure colour and oil ... I always paint in this way - and although it takes a time, I don’t think the same effect can be obtained otherwise’.
Green was a loner, not belonging to any group or school. From her isolated world in Ealing, where she lived unmarried for most of her working life, she projected herself through her pictures, role-playing variously as a mother and a wife, as a costermonger, as a dancer, as sinner and saint - or simply in a variety of different costumes and hats, open-mouthed and staring directly out of her pictures.
With Britain still at war, military subjects and portraiture dominated the RA in 1918. Amongst them was shown Green’s self portrait as a step dancer, which, by contrast, was ‘an image of optimism’ according to Nina Edwards, who recently illustrated it in her fashion history Dressed for War, describing the ‘striped green silk taffeta iridescent harem trousers ... [and] a white blouse rather low-necked and feminine, in soft Pierrot- like folds’. In 1918, trousers on women, especially stylish pantaloons like these, were considered daring, enough at least for this painting to be satirised by Punch in a cartoon that year. When it was exhibited at the Society of Women Artists in 1919, the critic of The Observer wrote ‘Taste and refinement mark Miss Madeline Green’s The Step Dancer. It is well spaced, and painted in muted tones, as of tarnished silver’.