The Marian Library Acquires Seven Works by Eric Gill

By Olivia Gillingham, Library Specialist in the Marian Library

The Marian Library recently acquired six wood engravings and one woodcut by artist Eric Gill. Gill, who lived from 1882 - 1940 in England, was a sculptor, typeface designer and author as well as printmaker, well-known particularly for the typeface “Gill Sans.” His art is associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. With works scattered across the world in many prominent museums’ permanent collections including the Tate, British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he is undoubtedly recognized as a great and influential artist.

Gill converted to Catholicism midlife, though his father was a Congregationalist minister and later a clergyman of a sect of Calvinist Methodists, so he had grown up in a religiously conservative household. Aspects of Gill’s personal life were frequently at odds with his passion for religion, and have raised complicated questions about how to appreciate his art and how much an artist’s biography should affect the way we view their work.

Though his character and actions often conflicted with his religious beliefs, the prints which the Marian Library has acquired express the spiritual side of the artist through their thoughtfully considered form, detail and subject matter. Five of the seven engravings center around the nativity, and at least one seems to have been created as a design for a Christmas card. Among the prints are traditional nativity scenes like the adoration of the magi, as well as ones with more unusual details, like a woodcut that imagines a midwife as part of a scene with the Holy Family.  The simplicity of the forms and figures in his art are typical of the style principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which emphasized the handiness of the craftsman, rather than the machine, in creation.  

Each work is pictured in the gallery.

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