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Self Portrait by Midge Bruford

Two portraits of local artist Midge Bruford were on display at Penlee’s exhibition, Artists by Themselves. In the first, possibly dating from the late 1930s, she is painted full faced by Harold Harvey. The second portrait is by Dod Procter and shows Midge as a young woman circa 1920. Both pictures were borrowed for the exhibition. Now, thanks to generous support by the Friends, the Gallery has its own image of Midge Bruford (below) painted by the artist herself.

A self-portrait of Midge did appear at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1938. This showed a three- quarter picture of Midge, pallet in hand, taken from the image from a looking glass. Our self-portrait is not that painting.

However, at the 1945 Royal Academy Exhibition one of Midge’s paintings had the title In The Studio Mirror. We have yet to trace an image or description of this work. The suggestion is that in 1945 Midge repeated her 1938 technique and produced a self-portrait from a mirror image: her gaze in our recently acquired self-portrait strongly suggests this. Also, being right handed, her painting arm is correctly reflected. The background cloth draped over a canvas indicates a studio setting. Bruford would have been aged 43 at the time. Further research may determine the provenance of our painting and Friends are invited to contact us with additional information or possible avenues of research.

Marjory (Midge) Frances Bruford was born in 1902, one of six children of an Eastbourne goldsmith and a Truro-born mother, Clara Bodilly. The Cradock family of Mousehole also formed part of her extended Cornish family. Midge’s Cornish links were further strengthened at Badminton School, Bristol, where she met Lamorna Birch’s daughters, Carol and Elizabeth, and formed a life-long friendship with Elizabeth (Mornie).

After Badminton, Midge headed to Newlyn for formal art training at the school of painting established there by Harold Harvey and Ernest Procter. She also modelled for her tutors and quickly established herself as a professional artist. Following a short spell in Paris, her talents were quickly recognised when her first Royal Academy painting Girl at the Dresser appeared at the 1924 summer exhibition. Over the next three decades, 31 of her paintings were shown at the Academy.

Midge Bruford’s art was set in West Cornwall.She worked from studios at Paul, Mousehole and Newlyn and she lived for a while at Bochym Manor near Mullion Cove with fellow artist Richard ‘Seal’ Weatherby. Around this time Midge and Weatherby became engaged to be married. The engagement did not last. During her career Midge exhibited regularly with the Newlyn and St. Ives artists. She died in November1958 at Poltimore Nursing Home, Exeter, following a lengthy illness.