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Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot

John Simkin

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In December, 1910, Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot met Lilian Kate Thompson, an artist’s model. They became engaged a few months later but his parents disapproved and advised him to wait before marrying. Adrian Allinson claimed she was "notoriously promiscuous", but his love for her had blinded him to what was "common knowledge to us all".

On 27th September 1911 Lightfoot planned to travel with Thompson to Liverpool to meet his parents. However, that morning their was a disagreement and he cut his throat with a razorblade in his 13 Fitzroy Road lodgings, in Primrose Hill. His friend, C.R.W. Nevinson argued that he was struck by the callous attitude of his friend's bereaved fiancee: "I felt bewildered when I witnessed the natural pride of the woman because a man had died for her."

The inquest passed a verdict of "Suicide whilst of Unsound Mind". Despite the fact that he was preparing for an exhibition of his work to be held at the Carfax Gallery, no paintings were found in his studio after his death and it is possible that Lightfoot destroyed them all before killing himself. On announcing his death, The Times claimed that: "All artists and critics.... were united in believing that Lightfoot would enjoy a most distinguished career in the highest rank of painting". Michael Sadleir considered Lightfoot's early death "a disaster to art in England."


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