THE CENTENARY of the birth of Eric Gill continues to inspire new' events. Two exhibitions of his work have already been held in London: at the end of this month there will be centenary celebration at Spode House; in September there will be an exhibition in Chichester, and in October the annual Beatrice Warde memorial lecture, this year on Eric Gill, will be given in the Westminster Cathedral conference centre. (In the cathedral are his stations of the cross, the reredos in the English Martyrs' chapel, and the tomb of Count Benckendorff — with inscription in Slavonic lettering — in the crypt).
Last week a third exhibition, 'Eric Gill, Drawings and Carvings', was opened in London at Anthony d'Oflay's gallery in Dering Sireet, Mayfair. It contains much that will probably be new even to connoisseurs of Gill's work. To begin with, architectural drawings. (Gill was apprenticed to the well known architect, \V. D. Caroe, but gave up architecture for lettering and stone-carving).
These include a design for an elementary school, of about 1903; a design of 1916 for a house for himself and his family; and ground plans for Asheham House, near Lewes, later the home -of Virginia and Leonard
At the end of his life Gill returned to architecture with his design for the church of St Peter, Apostole, at Gorleston-on-Sea, in the diocese of Northampton. The church, built in 1939, seems to combine a modern functionalism with a decidedly 'Gothic' feeling; something which perhaps Gill did not directly intend, since he was opposed to the building of Gothic churches in the 20th century.
In another medium, especially delightful are five small watercolour and gouache pictures of Noah's Ark, the Star of Bethlehem, a Nativity scene, the Angel appearing to the shepherds at Bethlehem, and the Flight into Egypt.
These brightly-coloured and highly finished images were made at Ditchling in 1911, and remained until recently with the artist's family. They may have been intended as pictures for a magic-lantern show for children.
Portraits, mostly drawn in pencil, include a sell-portrait and pictures of Dr Cecil Gill, the artist's brother, of Eric's wife and children, and Canon John Gray of St Peter's Edinburgh, and Dom VvIllnid Upson, then Prior of Caldey, and two especially beautiful drawinL., of the late Daisy Hawkins, who knew the Gill household from her childhood upwards, and Lady Prudence Pelham, who learned stone-carving of Gill, and was the only female apprentice he ever took.
Among designs for larger works is a drawing in pencil and red ink for the great sculpture, finished in 1937, which adorns the former League of Nations building in Geneva. This shows the creation of man by God, and has on it carved inscriptions taken from the Book of Genesis and Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem The Wreck of the Deutschland.
Notable also is a small display of books, decorated with woodengravings by Gill, printed by Hilary Pepler at his St Dominic's Press. These are all now of the last rarity. The copies here shown appear to be all of mint, or nearmint condition.
A word must be said as to the catalogue (price £3). This is a neat sixty-page paper covered book, admirably printed by Gill's nephew Christopher Skelton, with some 20 illustrations from photographs of works in the exhibition. All the exhibits are carefully described as to their origins and provenance; and there are several pages of valuable introductory matter by Anthony d'Offay and Richard Corke.
The exhibition remains open until 18 June.