Looking at Minnie Cunningham by Agalis Manessi was inspired by the painting by Walter Sickert - Minnie Cunningham at Old Bedford 1892. Agalis saw this painting at Tate Britain and was captivated by the image. She reveals that it was the “intense red on Minnie Cunningham’s dress (that) made me look at her again and again”.
Minnie Cunningham (1870-1954) was a popular performer at the Old Bedford Music Hall in Camden Town. As a British music hall star and actress her career spanned nearly forty years. Today, she is primarily remembered through paintings made of her by the prominent British artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) in the early 1890s. Despite her popularity, Cunningham has mostly been overlooked in music hall and theatre histories.
Sickert went to The Old Bedford regularly and made dozens of sketches capturing the effects of light and movement on the stage and in the auditorium. In the painting, Sickert paints from the point of view of an audience member. He first exhibited it with the subtitle ‘I’m an old hand at love, though I’m young in years’, a quote from one of Cunningham’s songs. Sickert painted the ordinary life he saw around him.