Madeline Green (1884 - 1947):
Coster with Dogs, circa 1925
Framed (ref: 9982)
Oil on canvas
Signed21 x 20 in. (53.3 x 50.8 cm)
Provenance: The Maas Gallery
The clothes worn by the figure leaning awkwardly against a wall are not those of an office clerk but of a member of the working classes. The garments look crumpled and worn and somewhat too large for their wearer’s slim frame. The sturdy lace-up shoes seem too long. Yellow flashes of waistcoat poke out from underneath a brown jacket, but there is no cravat, perhaps not even a shirt, the neck being protected by a scarf instead. Maybe this alludes to the kingsman: the brightly coloured silk handkerchief that served costermongers as necktie. The pony and cart visible in the distance suggest that it is indeed a coster lad we have before us. Or is it? The impossibly thin leashes attached to the collars of the two whippets – further indicators of working class membership – lead to an incongruously delicate, long-fingered hand. What should be a flat cap is bulging, probably from the attempt to hide inappropriately long hair. For it is the artist herself, Madeline Green, an anterior Cindy Sherman, who is looking at us. Green used variations of this disguise in several of her paintings and prints, sometimes exchanging the striped scarf for one made of black and white check. The fabric features in many of her works, fashioned into accessories, forming part of curtains, laying discarded on pieces of furniture or on the floor, not unlike the mysterious object (a blanket?) lying in the foreground to the left-hand side.
Commentary by Beatrice Behlen, Senior Curator of Fashion & Decorative Arts at the Museum of London.