The Madonna of the Street
Oil on board; signed and dated '23', and titled verso
15.75 x 11.5 inches
Cundell studied at the Slade under Tonks and at the Westminster School of Art under Sickert. She was an independent and adventurous woman, who travelled across America by car, driving 3,000 miles in a week. In the 1920s from her address in London, she showed a series of paintings of working women at the Royal Academy, The Cook, The Needlewoman and The Laundress, done with compassion and humour. She exhibited as ‘NLM Cundell’, tricking critics into referring to her as ‘Mr’. The woman in this painting is clearly a figure of authority in her street, seated on a household chair on the pavement like a throne, and prominently displaying her wedding ring. The same model appears centrally in a later, more ambitious painting, The Kitchen of 1927. Cundell held her first one-woman exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1923, which was reviewed by The Times: ‘There is no showing-off ... only fine, simple flowing composition, and very careful but very sure detail. The subjects are not smart pretty ladies, but mostly working women; there is no “best-clothes” display about the exhibition. But there is life and truth, and the beauty of them’.