Malcolm and his sister Hilda Lucy Milne (1874-1959) were born in Cheadle, Cheshire and were children of Lucy Midwood (1847-1899) and John Dewhurst Milne (1847-1899). Malcolm was born on the 14th October 1887 and attended Sedbergh School from 1900 to 1906, and was articled to a firm of Manchester architects, Thomas Worthington & Sons, but ill health prevented him following that career. He turned to art, and between 1908 and 1911 studied at the Slade School of Fine Art under Professor Henry Tonks, and the Westminster School of Art in London under Walter Richard Sickert. During WW1 he enlisted in 1914, but no doubt due to his ill heath served with the First British Ambulance Unit in Italy, and produced drawings of Dolegnano and Udine while there.
In the early 1920s he was painting in Italy, Sicily, and travelled quite extensively in Europe and the Middle East throughout his life going to such places as Egypt, Syria and Turkey. In 1926 Malcolm and his sister Hilda came to Henfield and stayed with their relative Miss Winnifred Shaw Harrison at ‘Dykes’, a cottage on the north side of Henfield Common. Malcolm had his studio in a wooden hut in the garden just to the east of ‘Dykes’. In 1927 a house was built on the site which was named ‘Dykes Studio’; it is now called ‘Camellias’. It was here that he lived with Dr Walter Archibald Probert (1867-1946) a retired physician, and had his studio. In 1928 Malcolm was elected a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts where he showed his work until 1952.
Hilda lived with Miss Harrison at ‘Dykes’, and had her studio in a building at the bottom of the garden bordering on Henfield Common. This building can still be seen in ruinous state when walking along the top of the Common - in a former life it had been the cottage 'Dogham Place', once subdivided into two tiny households in the Victorian era. When Miss Harrison died in 1939 she left ‘Dykes’ to Hilda.
Malcolm was the more recognised of the two artists. He specialised in flowers, for which he is noted, but also painted landscapes, portraits, and did pen and ink drawings. A collection of 31 of his paintings and drawings were exhibited at Arthur Tooth & Sons 155, New Bond Street, London from October 21st to November 7th 1931. He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1943 and died at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford on the 19th August 1954. Hilda died on the 15th September 1959 at Henfield. Both are buried in Henfield Cemetery.
The Tate Gallery, British Museum, and the V & A hold examples of Malcolm's work. In 1966 the Ashmolean Museum put on a retrospective exhibition of 91 of his paintings and drawings, and in 1969 an exhibition of 69 pieces of his work was put on at the Worthing Art Gallery.
The paintings in Henfield Museum (seen below) were done to form part of the 1951 Festival of Britain exhibition staged in the school on Henfield Common. He also painted the scenery for some of the productions put on by The Henfield Players.
by Alan Barwick, Curator
For more on Hilda, see the 2022 article by Rebecca Welshman within her project, Violet and Crimson: Radical Women in the Sussex Countryside (1900-1951).
Paintings for the 1951 Festival of Britain: Malcolm Midwood Milne
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