British Museum Presents Eric Gill Public and Private Art

. March 24, 2011 . 0 Comments

The British Museum presents a small display that explores the range of work by sculptor, letter cutter, engraver and typographer Eric Gill by contrasting his public commissions with his private art. On view through 7 August 2011.

Eric Gill (1882–1940) is one of the most famous British artists of the early 20th-century. His work is widely known, from his typefaces (including the famous Gill Sans) to his sculptural work, such as the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral. This exhibition features designs Gill created in response to public commissions for sculpture, coins, stamps, seals and medals alongside his private work as a wood engraver, book illustrator
and writer.

The objects in the exhibition highlight key areas of Gill’s life as an artist and attempt to explain his unique and complex political and religious ideals. He regularly explored the themes of religion (Gill was a devout Roman Catholic), sex and politics, and often incorporated hidden subversive messages in his public work. His art reflects the political and cultural movements which engaged British artists in the first half of the 20th century, from the Arts and Crafts movement and Fabian socialism to a the revival of Roman Catholicism.

The exhibition features work by Gill intended for
both public use and private delight, including stamp designs for the Post Office, coin designs for the Royal Mint, drawings for the Stations of the Cross, and his own engravings and publications on religion, politics and art. The centrepiece of the display is his famous sculpture Divine Lovers, on loan from Ditchling Museum in East Sussex. The display also examines Gill’s work on the British Museum building itself, including the war memorial at the main entrance.

The display concentrates attention on Gill’s art and ideas, rather than focusing on the sensational aspects of his private life which have become dominant in recent years. The showcasing of both Gill’s private work and his little-known public commissions deals with the entwining complexities of his art, life and ideals, and the contradictions that often emerged.

Category: Museum News

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