painter, was born on 18 February 1895 in Bendigo, eldest child of George Freeman, principal of St Andrew’s College and later Vice-Principal at Bendigo High School, and of Frances, second daughter of Charles Ross, a partner in a Bendigo store. She was educated at Girton College and Bendigo High School. In 1911-15 she studied art at the Bendigo School of Mines under Arthur T. Woodward, then was appointed assistant drawing mistress at her former high school. In 1916, however, she left Bendigo to study at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, where she remained until 1921.

Determined to study abroad, Madge worked with Elma Roach in 1922-23 to raise funds, the two painters holding joint exhibitions of their romantic Hilderesque watercolours and selling their painted and laquered 'Madgelma’ woodwork. Freeman had a painting included in the 1923 Exhibition of Australian Art in London. The following year she sailed to England and enrolled at the Slade School, London. In 1925 she was in Paris, studying under Adolphe Milich and exhibiting there.

In 1926 Madge married Lanfear Thompson, an engineer working on the African Gold Coast, and moved there. She continued to paint, and sent work back for a solo exhibition at the Bendigo Memorial Hall in 1928. In 1929 she returned briefly to visit her family following her husband’s premature death. Returning to Europe in 1930, Madge travelled around the Mediterranean, France and England for some time, sending back paintings for a solo exhibition at Sedon Galleries, Melbourne, in 1934. Late the following year she returned to Bendigo to live, paint and teach, holding classes at her studio in Barkly Place.

Madge had exhibited with the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors in 1923-26, then again in 1938, and regularly showed work in their annual exhibitions until 1971. She also exhibited with the Independent Group and for many years attended George Bell’s classes in Melbourne. For fifteen years she was convenor of the Art Circle of the Lyceum Club, Melbourne.

Madge Freeman remarried in 1940 and moved to Koongarra, a property at Longwarry, Gippsland, where her husband, Basil Davies, bred Ayrshire cattle. She also maintained a studio in the family home at South Yarra. In 1952-53 Madge and Basil travelled to England and Europe to look at art galleries and 'cows and bulls’. In 1956 they moved to Lower Plenty and three years later to Ivanhoe. From the late 1950s her health deteriorated and she painted less frequently, often reworking earlier paintings. She entered a convalescent home in the early 1970s, where she remained until her death in February 1977. She bequeathed her painting collection to Bendigo Art Gallery, which mounted a retrospective in 1981. When her husband died in 1979 he left funds for a Madge Freeman Prize to be administered by the gallery.

Kerr, Joan
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