Skip to Content
Showing 6 of 12

Madge Knight



Gouache on paper
20.875 x 23.75 x 1 in.
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

Madge Knight created a small group of gouaches during a sojourn in San Francisco during World War II. The paintings deploy a series of whimsical paradoxes as they investigate the boundaries between abstraction and representation, order and chaos, meaning and ambiguity. In this untitled work, Knight proposes a narrative and experiments with eliciting psychological and sensory responses through her choice and placement of forms, and their interaction in the indeterminate space.

How should one read Knight’s narrative in this floating still life? Perhaps the small yellow and white shards are meant to create angst by provoking a memory of sharp pain, as of a puncture. Perhaps the shape analogous to a table leg is meant to rouse a more ambiguous recollection from one’s home life. Do the dark blue forms, one like a drooping palm tree or an umbrella, elicit defeat or a hidden threat?

And where exactly are the crisply delineated planar and geometric forms situated in Knight’s expansive spatial illusion? Because a consistent, invisible light source seems to flood the scene from above left, at first glance they appear to be grounded in a perspective-based space akin to a desert wasteland. However, upon a closer look, the largest, hovering vertical forms have come skidding to a stop in the “foreground,” creating a convincing illusion of movement and nullifying any sense of a logical space.

What results is an anxious landscape of the mind. The painting raises more questions than it answers, reflecting the uncertainty of the wartime ambience in San Francisco, when there was the constant threat of an invasion from the Pacific.

Susan M. Anderson

Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Also found in
Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
This object is a member of the following portfolios:

Your current search criteria is: Portfolio is "Women, Surrealism & Abstraction" and [Objects]Object Name is "Drawing".

This site facilitates access to the art and artifact collections by providing digitally searchable records for thousands objects. The information on these pages is not definitive or comprehensive. We are regularly adding artworks and updating research online. We welcome your comments.