Eric Gill

Eric Gill

Overview
Arthur Eric Rowton Gill ˈɡɪl (22 February 1882 – 17 November 1940) was a British sculptor
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, typeface designer
Typography
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible. The arrangement of type involves the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading , adjusting the spaces between groups of letters and adjusting the space between pairs of letters...

, stonecutter and printmaker
Printmaking
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable...

, who was associated with the Arts and Crafts movement
Arts and Crafts movement
Arts and Crafts was an international design philosophy that originated in England and flourished between 1860 and 1910 , continuing its influence until the 1930s...

. He is a controversial figure, with his well-known religious views and subject matter being seen as at odds with his sexual and paraphilia
Paraphilia
Paraphilia is a biomedical term used to describe sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation and that may cause distress or serious problems for the paraphiliac or persons associated with him or her...

c behaviour and erotic art.

Gill was born in 1882 in Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

, Sussex (now East Sussex
East Sussex
East Sussex is a county in South East England. It is bordered by the counties of Kent, Surrey and West Sussex, and to the south by the English Channel.-History:...

) and in 1897 the family moved to Chichester
Chichester
Chichester is a cathedral city in West Sussex, within the historic County of Sussex, South-East England. It has a long history as a settlement; its Roman past and its subsequent importance in Anglo-Saxon times are only its beginnings...

. He studied at Chichester Technical and Art School, and in 1900 moved to London to train as an architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 with the practice of W.D. Caroe
W.D. Caroe
William Douglas Caroe was a British architect, particularly of churches. His sons were the architect A.D.R. Caroe, and Sir Olaf Caroe...

, specialists in ecclesiastical architecture.
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Encyclopedia
Arthur Eric Rowton Gill ˈɡɪl (22 February 1882 – 17 November 1940) was a British sculptor
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, typeface designer
Typography
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible. The arrangement of type involves the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading , adjusting the spaces between groups of letters and adjusting the space between pairs of letters...

, stonecutter and printmaker
Printmaking
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable...

, who was associated with the Arts and Crafts movement
Arts and Crafts movement
Arts and Crafts was an international design philosophy that originated in England and flourished between 1860 and 1910 , continuing its influence until the 1930s...

. He is a controversial figure, with his well-known religious views and subject matter being seen as at odds with his sexual and paraphilia
Paraphilia
Paraphilia is a biomedical term used to describe sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative stimulation and that may cause distress or serious problems for the paraphiliac or persons associated with him or her...

c behaviour and erotic art.

Life


Gill was born in 1882 in Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

, Sussex (now East Sussex
East Sussex
East Sussex is a county in South East England. It is bordered by the counties of Kent, Surrey and West Sussex, and to the south by the English Channel.-History:...

) and in 1897 the family moved to Chichester
Chichester
Chichester is a cathedral city in West Sussex, within the historic County of Sussex, South-East England. It has a long history as a settlement; its Roman past and its subsequent importance in Anglo-Saxon times are only its beginnings...

. He studied at Chichester Technical and Art School, and in 1900 moved to London to train as an architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 with the practice of W.D. Caroe
W.D. Caroe
William Douglas Caroe was a British architect, particularly of churches. His sons were the architect A.D.R. Caroe, and Sir Olaf Caroe...

, specialists in ecclesiastical architecture. Frustrated with his training, he took evening classes in stonemasonry at Westminster Technical Institute and in calligraphy
Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

 at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where Edward Johnston
Edward Johnston
Edward Johnston, CBE was a British-Uruguayan craftsman who is regarded, with Rudolf Koch, as the a father of modern calligraphy, in the form of the broad edged pen as a writing tool, a particular form of calligraphy....

, creator of the London Underground
London Underground
The London Underground is a rapid transit system serving a large part of Greater London and some parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in England...

 typeface
Typeface
In typography, a typeface is the artistic representation or interpretation of characters; it is the way the type looks. Each type is designed and there are thousands of different typefaces in existence, with new ones being developed constantly....

, became a strong influence. In 1903 he gave up his architectural training to become a calligrapher, letter-cutter and monumental mason.

In 1904 he married Ethel Hester Moore (1878–1961), and in 1907 he moved with his family to "Sopers", a house in the village of Ditchling
Ditchling
Ditchling is a village and civil parish in the Lewes District of East Sussex, England. The village is contained within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park; the order confirming the establishment of the park was signed in Ditchling....

 in Sussex, which would later become the centre of an artists' community inspired by Gill. There he started producing sculpture – his first public success was Mother and Child (1912). A self-described "disciple" of the Ceylonese philosopher and art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy
Ananda Coomaraswamy
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy was a Ceylonese philosopher and metaphysician, as well as a pioneering historian and philosopher of Indian art, particularly art history and symbolism, and an early interpreter of Indian culture to the West...

, Gill was fascinated during this period by Indian temple sculpture. Along with his friend and collaborator Jacob Epstein
Jacob Epstein
Sir Jacob Epstein KBE was an American-born British sculptor who helped pioneer modern sculpture. He was born in the United States, and moved to Europe in 1902, becoming a British citizen in 1911. He often produced controversial works which challenged taboos on what was appropriate subject matter...

, he planned the construction in the Sussex countryside of a colossal, hand-carved monument in imitation of the large-scale Jain
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

 structures at Gwalior Fort
Gwalior Fort
ċċċċċt̪--122.177.251.15 13:02, 20 November 2011 --122.177.251.15 13:02, 20 November 2011 --122.177.251.15 13:02, 20 November 2011 Gwalior Fort in Gwalior, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, stands on an isolated rock, overlooking the Gwalior town, and contains a number of historic...

 in Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh , often called the Heart of India, is a state in central India. Its capital is Bhopal and Indore is the largest city....

, to which he had been introduced by the Indiaphile William Rothenstein
William Rothenstein
Sir William Rothenstein was an English painter, draughtsman and writer on art.-Life and work:William Rothenstein was born into a German-Jewish family in Bradford, West Yorkshire. His father, Moritz, emigrated from Germany in 1859 to work in Bradford's burgeoning textile industry...

.

In 1913 he moved to Hopkin's Crank at Ditchling Common, two miles north of the village. In 1914 he produced sculptures for the stations of the cross
Stations of the Cross
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. The tradition as chapel devotion began with St...

 in Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral
Westminster Cathedral in London is the mother church of the Catholic community in England and Wales and the Metropolitan Church and Cathedral of the Archbishop of Westminster...

. In the same year he met the typographer Stanley Morison
Stanley Morison
Stanley Morison was an English typographer, designer and historian of printing.Born in Wanstead, Essex, Morison spent most of his childhood and early adult years at the family home in Fairfax Road, Harringay...

. After the war, together with Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute
Desmond Chute
Father Desmond Macready Chute was an English artist, who became a Catholic priest in 1927. He was born in Bristol, where his father James Macready Chute ran the family theatre...

, Gill founded The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic
The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic
The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic was an art colony and experiment in communal life in early 20th century England. The story of the Guild began when Eric Gill the sculptor and letter cutter came to Ditchling, Sussex in 1907 with his apprentice Joseph Cribb and was soon followed by fellow...

 at Ditchling
Ditchling
Ditchling is a village and civil parish in the Lewes District of East Sussex, England. The village is contained within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park; the order confirming the establishment of the park was signed in Ditchling....

, where his pupils included the young David Jones
David Jones (poet)
David Jones CH was both a painter and one of the first generation British modernist poets. As a painter he worked chiefly in watercolor, painting portraits and animal, landscape, legendary and religious subjects. He was also a wood-engraver and designer of inscriptions. As a writer he was...

, who soon began a relationship with Gill's daughter, Petra.

In 1924 he moved to Capel-y-ffin
Capel-y-ffin
Capel-y-ffin is a hamlet near the English-Welsh border in Powys, Wales, in the Black Mountains within the Brecon Beacons National Park. The nearest town is Hay-on-Wye, some to the north-west.-The Chapel:...

 in Wales, where he set up a new workshop, to be followed by Jones and other disciples. In 1925 he designed the Perpetua
Perpetua (typeface)
Perpetua is a typeface that was designed by English sculptor and typeface designer Eric Gill .Though not designed in the historical period of transitional type , Perpetua can be classified with transitional typefaces because of characteristics such as high stroke...

 typeface, with the uppercase based upon monumental Roman inscriptions, for Morison, who was working for the Monotype Corporation
Monotype Corporation
Monotype Imaging Holdings is a Delaware corporation based in Woburn, Massachusetts and specializing in typesetting and typeface design as well as text and imaging solutions for use with consumer electronics devices. Monotype Imaging Holdings is the owner of Monotype Imaging Inc., Linotype,...

.

An in-situ example of Gill's design and personal cutting of his Perpetua typeface can be found in the nave of Poling church in West Sussex, on a wall plaque commemorating the life of Sir Harry Johnston. The Perpetua design was followed by the Gill Sans
Gill Sans
Gill Sans is a sans-serif typeface designed by Eric Gill.The original design appeared in 1926 when Douglas Cleverdon opened a bookshop in his home town of Bristol, where Eric Gill painted the fascia over the window in sans-serif capitals that would later be known as Gill Sans...

 typeface in 1927–30, based on the sans serif lettering originally designed for the London Underground
London Underground
The London Underground is a rapid transit system serving a large part of Greater London and some parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in England...

. (Gill had collaborated with Edward Johnston in the early design of the Underground typeface, but dropped out of the project before it was completed.) In the period 1930–31 Gill designed the typeface Joanna
Joanna (typeface)
Joanna is a transitional serif typeface designed by Eric Gill in the period 1930–31, and named for one of his daughters. The typeface was originally designed for proprietary use by Gill's printing shop Hague & Gill. The type was first produced in a small quantity by the Caslon Foundry for hand...

 which he used to hand-set his book, An Essay on Typography.

Gill soon tired of Capel-y-ffin, coming to feel that it had the wrong atmosphere and was too far from London, where most of his clients were. In 1928 he moved to Pigotts at Speen
Speen, Buckinghamshire
Speen is a village in the parish of Princes Risborough, in Buckinghamshire, England. It is located in the Chiltern Hills, about three miles south east of the main town.The village name is Anglo Saxon in origin, and means 'wood chips'...

 near High Wycombe
High Wycombe
High Wycombe , commonly known as Wycombe and formally called Chepping Wycombe or Chipping Wycombe until 1946,is a large town in Buckinghamshire, England. It is west-north-west of Charing Cross in London; this figure is engraved on the Corn Market building in the centre of the town...

 in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

, where he set up a printing press and lettering workshop. He took on a number of apprentices, including David Kindersley
David Kindersley
David Guy Barnabas Kindersley was a British stone letter-carver and typeface designer, and the founder of the Kindersley Workshop . His carved plaques and inscriptions in stone and slate can be seen on many churches and public buildings in the United Kingdom...

, who in turn became a successful sculptor and engraver, and John Skelton (1923–99), his nephew, and also noted as an important letterer and sculptor. Other apprentices included Laurie Cribb, Donald Potter and Walter Ritchie
Walter Ritchie
Walter Ritchie was a British sculptor who had been one of the last living apprentices of Eric Gill at Piggotts after the Second World War...

. Others in the household included Denis Tegetmeier, married to Gill's daughter Petra, and Rene Hague, married to the other daughter, Joanna.


In 1928–9, Gill carved three of eight relief sculptures on the theme of winds for Charles Holden
Charles Holden
Charles Henry Holden, Litt. D., FRIBA, MRTPI, RDI was a Bolton-born English architect best known for designing many London Underground stations during the 1920s and 1930s, for Bristol Central Library, the Underground Electric Railways Company of London's headquarters at 55 Broadway and for the...

's headquarters for the London Electric Railway
Underground Electric Railways Company of London
The Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited , known operationally as The Underground for much of its existence, was established in 1902. It was the holding company for the three deep-level "tube"A "tube" railway is an underground railway constructed in a circular tunnel by the use...

 (now Transport for London
Transport for London
Transport for London is the local government body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London in England. Its role is to implement the transport strategy and to manage transport services across London...

) at 55 Broadway
55 Broadway
55 Broadway is a notable building overlooking St. James's Park in London. It was designed by Charles Holden and built between 1927 and 1929, and in 1931 the building earned him the RIBA London Architecture Medal...

, St James's.
In 1932 Gill produced a group of sculptures, Prospero and Ariel, and others for the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's Broadcasting House
Broadcasting House
Broadcasting House is the headquarters and registered office of the BBC in Portland Place and Langham Place, London.The building includes the BBC Radio Theatre from where music and speech programmes are recorded in front of a studio audience...

 in London. In 1937, he designed the background of the first George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 definitive stamp
Definitive stamp
A definitive stamp is a postage stamp, that is part of a regular issue of a country's stamps available for sale by the postal service for an extended period of time...

 series for the Post Office, and in 1938 produced The Creation of Adam, three bas-reliefs in stone for the Palace of Nations, the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 building in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, Switzerland. During this period he was made a Royal Designer for Industry
Royal Designers for Industry
Royal Designer for Industry is a distinction established by the British Royal Society of Arts in 1936, to encourage a high standard of industrial design and enhance the status of designers. It is awarded to people who have achieved "sustained excellence in aesthetic and efficient design for...

, the highest British award for designers, by the Royal Society of Arts
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce is a British multi-disciplinary institution, based in London. The name Royal Society of Arts is frequently used for brevity...

 and became a founder-member of the newly established Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry.

A deeply religious man, largely following the Roman Catholic faith, his beliefs and practices were by no means orthodox. He published numerous essays on the relationship between art and religion. He also produced a number of erotic engravings. His personal diaries describe his sexual activity in great detail including the fact that Gill sexually abused his own children, had an incestuous relationship with his sister and performed sexual acts on his dog. This aspect of Gill's life was little known until publication of the 1989 biography by Fiona MacCarthy
Fiona MacCarthy
Fiona MacCarthy OBE is a British biographer and cultural historian best known for her studies of 19th and 20th century arts, crafts and design....

. The earlier biography by Robert Speaight
Robert Speaight
Robert Speaight was a British actor and writer, and the brother of George Speaight the puppeteer.He was an early performer in radio plays. He came to prominence as Becket in the first production of T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. He went on to Shakespearean roles, and to direct.He also...

 mentioned none of it.

As the revelations about Gill's private life reverberated, there was a reassessment of his personal and artistic achievement. As his recent biographer sums up:
Gill died of lung cancer in Harefield Hospital
Harefield Hospital
Harefield Hospital is located in Harefield, Middlesex. It is part of the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, which describes itself as "the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK and among the largest in Europe". Harefield's sister hospital is the Royal Brompton Hospital in...

, Hillingdon
Hillingdon
Hillingdon is a suburban area within the London Borough of Hillingdon, situated 14.2 miles west of Charing Cross.Much of Hillingdon is represented as the Hillingdon East ward within the local authority, Hillingdon Council...

 (formerly Middlesex
Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

), in 1940. He was buried in Speen churchyard in the Chilterns, near Princes Risborough, the village where his last artistic community had practised. His papers and library are archived at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library , one of twelve official libraries at the University of California, Los Angeles, is one of the most comprehensive rare books and manuscripts libraries in the United States, with particular strengths in English literature and history , Oscar Wilde, and fine...

 at UCLA.

Typefaces


Eric Gill's types include:
  • Gill Sans
    Gill Sans
    Gill Sans is a sans-serif typeface designed by Eric Gill.The original design appeared in 1926 when Douglas Cleverdon opened a bookshop in his home town of Bristol, where Eric Gill painted the fascia over the window in sans-serif capitals that would later be known as Gill Sans...

    (his most famous face and lasting legacy to typography 1927–30)
  • Perpetua
    Perpetua (typeface)
    Perpetua is a typeface that was designed by English sculptor and typeface designer Eric Gill .Though not designed in the historical period of transitional type , Perpetua can be classified with transitional typefaces because of characteristics such as high stroke...

    (1926)
  • Perpetua Greek (1929)
  • Golden Cockerel Press Type (for the Golden Cockerel Press
    Golden Cockerel Press
    Golden Cockerel Press was a major English private press operating between 1920 and 1961.The Press was founded by Harold Midgley Taylor in 1920 and was first in Waltham St Lawrence in Berkshire where he had unsuccessfully tried fruit farming...

    ; 1929)
  • Solus (1929),
  • Joanna
    Joanna (typeface)
    Joanna is a transitional serif typeface designed by Eric Gill in the period 1930–31, and named for one of his daughters. The typeface was originally designed for proprietary use by Gill's printing shop Hague & Gill. The type was first produced in a small quantity by the Caslon Foundry for hand...

    (based on work by Granjon; 1930–31)
  • Aries (1932)
  • Floriated Capitals (1932)
  • Bunyan (1934)
  • Pilgrim (recut version of Bunyan; 1953)
  • Jubilee (also known as Cunard; 1934)


In his 1947–49 redesign for Penguin Books
Penguin Books
Penguin Books is a publisher founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane and V.K. Krishna Menon. Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930s through its high quality, inexpensive paperbacks, sold through Woolworths and other high street stores for sixpence. Penguin's success demonstrated that large...

, a project that resulted in the establishment of Penguin Composition Rules, Jan Tschichold
Jan Tschichold
Jan Tschichold was a typographer, book designer, teacher and writer.-Life:Tschichold was the son of a provincial signwriter, and he was trained in calligraphy...

 specified use of Gill Sans for book titles, and in branding their Pelican imprint. In the 1990s, the BBC adopted Gill Sans for its wordmark and many of its on-screen television graphics.

Selected writings


  • A Holy Tradition of Working: An Anthology of Writings, Golgonooza Press, 1983, ISBN 0-903880-30-X
  • Clothes: An Essay Upon the Nature and Significance of the Natural and Artificial Integuments Worn by Men and Women, 1931, Jonathan Cape
  • An Essay on Typography, 1931, ISBN 0-87923-762-7, ISBN 0-87923-950-6 (reprints)
  • Christianity and Art, 1927
  • Art, 1934
  • Work and Property, 1937
  • Work and Culture, 1938
  • Autobiography: Quod Ore Sumpsimus..., Jonathan Cape, 1940 (published posthumously) ISBN 1-870495-13-6
  • Notes on Postage Stamps, Kat Ran Press, 2011. ISBN 0-979434-21-1

External links




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