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Madge Theme: Beginnings

Artist: Hugh RAMSAY
Birth/Death: 1877–1906

Title: Madge

Credit Line: Gift of Janet and John Wicking in memory of Madge, Janet's mother and Hugh Ramsay's sister 1996. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

On his return to Melbourne from Europe in 1902, Hugh Ramsay painted this life size portrait of his 19-year-old sister Madge. Diagnosed with tuberculosis while working in Paris in 1900, he painted some of his finest works in the last four years of his tragically short life. Throughout this period, Ramsay painted all three of his sisters, often from his sickbed, with a determination and rigour, which exasperated his carers. Ramsay’s sensitivity and realism is matched by his bold technical accomplishment. Notice the worn blue patterned linoleum of the studio floor, the unframed canvases resting against the wall and the impressive hat worn by his model. Gloves held at her side, Madge clenches her skirt, creating depth and tone in the fold of fabric, while she returns Ramsay’s gaze with penetrating sisterly concern.

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