Madeline Green lived and painted for most of her life in Ealing, West London, where she had a studio 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 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 - with her unflinching gaze fixed always on the viewer.
In her Piper in Blue, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1917, Green sits in the eerie, sub-aqueous light of her studio, playing a tune on a pipe - perhaps a nod to Estella Canziani's famous Piper of Dreams (1916), which was reproduced as a print and sold in huge numbers by the Medici Society in 1916. In the Canziani, little woodland creatures creep out to listen - but in Green's strange painting, the piper is all alone; we are her audience.
When it was shown at the RA, Green's picture attracted good reviews:
'Truly decorative is Miss Madeline Green's "Piper in Blue" (25), in which blue tones and white are handled with the utmost sensitiveness, and a curious sense of verticality extending even to the long-faced slender figure, gives peculiar charm to the composition' (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 21 May 1917, p 6)
'Miss Madeline Green's The Piper in Blue is good in handling and colour' (The Connoisseur, May/Aug 1917, vol XLVIII, p 110)