Madge Tennent biography

Madge Tennent

Painting, Visual Artist

1889 – 1972


Who was Madge Tennent?

Madge Tennent was an English artist.

Born to Arthur Cook, an architect and landscape painter and his wife, Agnes, a writer. The family moved in 1894 to Cape Town, South Africa, and Madge’s parents’ efforts to promote tolerance among various races and creeds there no doubt left a lasting impression on the young Madge.

Because of Madge’s artistic promise, her family to give up their home in Cape Town so that she might study in Paris. There, she studied with William-Adolphe Bouguereau, the leading proponent of academic art. Eventually finances caused her family to move back to South Africa, where sixteen-year-old Madge led a government-sponsored art school.

Madge was also an accomplished pianist, taught by her mother, and gave regular recitals in Cape Town. One such recital was attended by a visiting military officer from New Zealand, Hugh Cowper Tennent, who was in South Africa with his regiment. After their marriage in 1915, the couple moved to New Zealand. Again Madge directed an art school, having been appointed head instructor at the Government School of Art in Woodville, the village where Madge and Hugh lived while he awaited further military orders. When orders came, Hugh was posted to France in support of the allied effort in World War I. Hugh returned from France in 1917 with a badly wounded arm. An accountant by trade, he was offered a position as treasurer to the government of British Samoa, which he chose to accept. The Tennents lived in Samoa for six years, during which time Madge was able to indulge a fascination with the native people of Polynesian descent. Madge was able to devote much of her time to drawing charcoal portraits of Samoans. In 1923, en route to England to enroll their sons in school, the Tennents stopped over in Honolulu. It was to have been a brief stop, but they soon were persuaded by members of the local cultural elite, including poet Don Blanding, to stay on. Madge was immediately taken with the Hawaiian people.


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  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
Feb 5, 1972

on July 23, 2013

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