Madeline Green lived and worked for most of her life in Ealing, in the West of London. The 1891 census recorded her living with her father Frederick, a prosperous butcher/farmer, and her mother Emily in Uxbridge Road in Ealing. In the 1901 census she was living with her family in Silsoe Villa, 40 The Mall, Ealing. From 1920-40 she kept a studio up the road at number 51. From 1906 to 1911 she attended the RA Schools; the 1911 census records her living in Tring with her older brother Thomas, her older sister Hilda (the next oldest sister Gladys was not there) and her younger sister Mabel. Between 1912 and 1943, she exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, the Glasgow Institute, the Paris Salon and the Society of Women Artists, building a reputation for her subdued and enigmatic pictures. In 1915 her painting The Model
at the Royal Academy attracted effusive praise from The Times’
art critic, concluding 'It is a credit to the Academy that the painting should be so well hung'. The famous art dealer Joseph Duveen admired Green's work, and in 1927 acquired The Future
for the Manchester Art Gallery. Green explained her working method in a letter to the Gallery: the painting 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'. Twenty years later in the year of her death, her self-portrait The Chenille Net
, now in the Dulwich Picture Gallery, won the gold medal at the Paris Salon.
Madeline Green's paintings, in tones of tarnished silver and glassy white, are variations on themes of recurring figures - often self portraits - that float in and out of haunted, backlit spaces. One interior, exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1925, was described by the critic of the magazine Le Petit Parisien as 'l'etrange interieur exangue de Madeline Green.'
This picture borrows elements (the chequered floor, the lone girl) from The Model (1915), The Step-Dancer (1918) and Sunday Morning (1920), and may have been exhibited in 1916 as either Girl on Check Floor or The Girl's Debut. The artist has painted herself in a full skirt and red dancing shoes, like those used for Irish step-dancing. Although her right foot retreats shyly as she girlishly clasps her handbag, Green faces us squarely, meeting our gaze; a silhouetted statuette of the Virgin is placed prominently on the windowsill behind. A pristine chequered floor, reminiscent of Vermeer's orderly interiors, glimmers in the foreground, while crumpled garments hang on a stool placed in the shadow-tinged corner of the room. In her characteristically muted tones, Green seems to balance intimacy and transparency with formality and secrecy.