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Eric Gill Artwork Collection
MS Gill  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
Artwork and other visual material produced by or related to British artist, designer and sculptor Eric Gill. This collection contains a large amount of original art as well as reproductions, photographs and supporting documentation.
Background
Son of a non-conformist minister, one of twelve children, Eric Gill was born in Brighton in 1882 and brought up in Chichester, where he attended art school and learned the rudiments of drawing. At the age of eighteen he went to London to work in an architect's office. The Arts and Crafts movement, then in its first flowering, offered an exciting alternative to the "wage slavery" of the office as well as the opportunity to make his living independently. Instead of studying architecture in the evenings, Gill learned the art of carving inscriptions in stone, attending masonry classes at Westminster Technical School & lettering courses at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. His teacher at the Central School was Edward Johnston, an expert calligrapher and an eloquent proponent of Arts and Crafts techniques. By 1904 Gill was self-employed, supporting himself and his wife by carving lettering on public buildings as well as tombstones & memorial tablets for private clients. At this time, Gill's interest in art, religion, and politics were developing in diverse, often contradictory directions. His first experiments in sculpture won the approval of influential artists and critics who admired the primitive vigor of his work and also its technical polish, a combination that prompted flattering comparisons with archaic sculpture on one hand and the newly fashionable Post-Impressionist art on the other. Gill never quite renounced his heritage in the Arts and Crafts or the patronage of the London art world, but he adamantly refused to be identified simply as a craftsman or an artist. He dabbled in socialism, attended meetings of the Fabian Society, and spoke vociferously against the factory system. But he soon wearied of the discipline and obligations of political action, left London, and joined a community of craftsmen in Ditchling, Sussex. While at Ditchling, he and his wife converted to Catholicism and founded there a reconstituted religious community linked with the Dominican order, the Guild of SS. Joseph and Dominic. Sculpture continued to occupy Gill during the Ditchling period (1907-1924) - perhaps most importantly the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral and the War Memorial at Leeds University - but at the same time Gill mastered other skills and developed other sources of income. His lettering was in great demand not just for stone inscriptions, but also for painted signs and printing, particularly buildings, title pages, and chapter headings. Characteristically, Gill learned wood engraving to have better control over how his lettering was printed. He also began to experiment with printmaking and book illustration, trying his hand at the handpress and learning the first principles of typography and composition. In 1924 Gill moved his family and studio to a deserted, half-ruined monastery in South Wales. The monastery of Capel-y-ffin provided a perfect setting for Gill to build his ideal religious community without unwelcome publicity or intrusions from the outside world. He found a new market for his wood engravings in the Golden Cockerel Press. Increasingly intrigued by typography and its possibilities for independent self-expression, Gill not only catered to book collectors and bibliophiles but also to trade printers through the Monotype Corporation, which commissioned from him a series of distinguished typefaces. As his fame and business grew, so did the demands on his facilities, time, and energy. Gill brought his family closer to London in 1928, settling at Pigotts, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. In 1929 Gill reached the highpoint of his career: several major monographs appeared on his sculpture; a complete collection of his engravings was published in a lavishly printed limited edition; and a selection of his polemical essays was printed at his own press inaugurating a typeface of his own design. Within a year he suffered a breakdown from overwork. Although he never fully recovered, he remained formidably busy during the rest of his life. He designed and built a church, carved massive public sculptures for the BBC headquarters and of the London Underground, as well as huge panels for the League of Nations building in Geneva. Along with these prestigious commissions came more honors: he was elected an Honorary Associate of the Institute of British Architects, and Associate of the Royal Academy, and one of the first Royal Designers for Industry. Despite failing health, he wrote his Autobiography during 1940 and kept hard at work to the very end. translation of the Psalms, kept up his accounts, and wrote the last entries in his voluminous diaries. He died on November 17, 1940 at the age of fifty-eight after an unsuccessful operation. When he died, he left behind more than a thousand engravings; at least one hundred and fifty books with his illustrations; designs for eleven different typefaces; and countless sculptures and inscriptions on city buildings, Catholic churches, and public squares throughout England.
Extent
2000 items
Restrictions
Copyright has not been assigned to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Availability
This collection is open to researchers.