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Friday, 10 December 2010

Eric Gill- questioning the canon

Dissertations command so much involvement that there has to be a point when you are called back to reality and forced to question yourself. For me the moment came when my Supervisor asked me to defend Eric Gill. 'Should we be giving credit to the influence of a paedophile?' The question made me squirm because I realised that I had dismissed the incest thing long ago.

Eric Gill was a brilliant artist and a magnificent sculptor, but not everybody believes this should be acknowledged. For me it is impossible to deny his influence on David Jones; he gave him religion, lettercutting and a sense of the importance of community and Place in art. There were also many points at which the two men diverged and in later years Jones would refer dismissively to 'that Gill thing'. But the basis of my argument will be the extent of this influence; how the most astonishing aspects of Jones would be impossible without the illumination of Eric Gill. So I ask that you hold moral judgement on the man while you consider the art.

Eric Gill's Last Essays was a very, very cheap ebay purchase but it is filled with the unexpected surprise of beautiful bookplates. This might be a fairly rich post in terms of images as I am not sure I can choose between them. The 'V' shown here, became Gill's insigna marking the front page of every book.

'Beauty should be free of ethical association' claimed Gill and for a while I made this my maxim so that I could avoid the more sordid nature of Gill's work and the difficult question of religion. But I think perhaps I might have to at least confront the ethical associations in my writing. This is just a selection of Gill's work in one medium, but I hope it reveals the possibilities of the artist.


  1. i've just scrolled down and i found that... you're a truly art lover! nice to read your posts!

  2. Yes, it is a big dilemma...

  3. I've just found this and another post about Gill while searching for some images. I am doing a PhD on Gill's sculpture and workshop - what is the subject of your thesis?