The Dead Girl

James Montgomery Cant

The Dead Girl by James Montgomery Cant


James Montgomery Cant
The Dead Girl
oil on canvas
51 x 40.5 cm

signed upper right: Cant 53


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Australian, International & Aboriginal Art, Bonhams & Goodman, Sydney, October 2007, lot 655
private collection, Sydney


Probably, A.I.A Gallery, Lisle Street, London, 1955

James Cant Retrospective’, 1984, Art Gallery of South Australia, catalogue no. 20 (label verso with a note that the painting was ‘Based on a photograph of a murdered girl in the newspaper);

Deutscher Fine Art, November 1988, catalogue 63, illustrated in colour;

Niagara Gallery, Melbourne, 1993, catalogue no. 15


James Cant with an introduction by Elizabeth Young, A Brolga Book, 1970, plate 14

The Australian, ‘Weekend Review, 27-28 March, 1993, review by Robert Rooney of Cant’s exhibition at Niagara Gallery: ‘Then there’s The Dead Girl (1953), a rather strange portrait based on a newspaper photograph of a murder victim in which the highlights on the girl’s cheeks almost match the twin peaks of her collar’.

Further Information

James Cant’s The Dead Girl of 1953 is a boldly conceived and freely brushed frontal portrait of an unnamed female murder victim. The painting almost certainly arose from what became known as the Teddington Towpath murders committed near the Teddington Lock on The Thames River on 31 May 1953. It was one of Scotland Yard’s most notable investigations. Cant did not paint many portraits and this rare example is remarkable in its use of severely restricted tones that seem to recede as if to highlight the sad snuffing out of the life of one of the young girls (there were two). It was an immense public scandal, especially since one of the bodies was found on 1 June 1953 - the day before Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The painting sinks from light into darkness as a painterly metaphor of the tragedy of the much-reported brutal event and its psychological implications.

This is an extract from the catalogue essay by Ken Wach. 2017.

© James Montgomery Cant/Licensed by Viscopy 2017