ERIC GILL died last Saturday at Harefield Hospital, near Uxbridge, a few days after an , operation for excision of part of a lung. He had been in poor health throughout the summer, but the operation which in itself was a success was expected to restore him to health. His death, due to
collapse, was sudden and unexpected. He had received the Last Sacraments before the operation.
Gills name was among the best-known of contemporary Catholics, for he was recognised as one of the best and most original artists of the day, whose influence was widespread and whose works were generally familiar, often causing some controversy. As a type designer he was a pioneer in modern printing.
Best known, perhaps, to the country were his carvings of Prospero and Ariel on Broadcasting House, and to Catholics the famous Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral,
As a writer Gill did not attain so wide a renown, but his influence as a revolutionary Christian was widespread outside Catholic circles. He was a convinced pacifist. What must have been some of his last writing appeared last week and a fortnight ago in this newspaper when he contributed to the series of -articles on a Christian. Social Order.
We print two appreciations of Gill, the Christian (below), and Gill, the artist and thinker (page 8), and a short obituary appears on page 7.
Next week we hope to devote more space to Eric Gill's life and work and to publish a series of pictures.
A hitherto unpublished self-portrait by Eric Gill, executed in 1927
Gill The Christian
(By a Priest Friend).
ERIC GILL has gone to Christ the Worker. The simple principle on which his whole life has been founded was that " Physical labour is in itself good and may he and should be holy and sacred," as he himself said in this journal three weeks ago.
" To work is to pray " was for him not an aspiration but a life-principle. Work is prayer—the prayer of contemplation— primarily an act of the love of God and secondarily to give to others the things seen in contemplation. He has given these things in stone, in wood, in words.
This view-point of work as something holy, something born of the love of God, was the basis of his criticism of the modern world. Sometimes this criticism was trenchant, but it came from an apostolic indignation at " the greatest scandal of the nineteenth century—the loss of the workers to Christ " (Plus XI I.
The degradation of work and the worker was for him the great apostasy. He had a deep. passionate love for the poor—not an muck For their penury, which is so often a blessing, but for the deprivation of making their work holy and fur " their reduction to a sub-human condition of intellectual irresponsibility " —his oft-repealed quotation.
Because he made all his work an act of love and worship, God enriched his affectionate nature to carry out a fruitful apostolate of help and comfort to others. Countless difficulties of mind and heart were constantly being brought to his kind and sympathetic understanding. While no principle was ever shirked. the gentle peace of Christ was always quietly and unobtrusisely left as the final solution.
The future May be left to assess his work as an artist and a writer, but those who came into intimate contact with him will live enriched by the inheritance 'of his love and friendship.