Minnie Cunningham at the Old Bedford

Research paper by JASON PRICE

Indexed on: 25 Jun '20Published on: 01 Jul '20Published in: Theatre Research International


Minnie Cunningham (1870–1954) was a British music hall star and actress whose 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. Instead, the limited information that is available about her today comes to us primarily through art-history scholarship on Sickert. To fill this gap, this paper offers the first scholarly account of Cunningham by drawing together press notices, published interviews, and other artefacts from her long career. This introduction to Cunningham is framed by a discussion of the unevenness of the cultural transactions taking place between these artists – between the ‘higher’ arts practice of modern painting and the perceived ‘lower’ music hall. I consider how this imbalance played out at the time these artists worked and the impact this has had in the preservation (or lack thereof) of their artistic practices.