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From the Jerusalem Diary of Eric Gill

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In 1909, Gill carved Alphabets and Numerals for a book, "Manuscript and Inscription Letters for Schools and Classes and for the Use of Craftsmen", compiled by Edward Johnston. It was at this point that Hepburn began believing that the museum – which does not currently tell its visitors about Gill’s abuse of his daughters – had a “responsibility” to be “more upfront” about certain facts. Eric Gill was born in 1882 in Hamilton Road, Brighton, the second of the 13 children of the Reverend Arthur Tidman Gill and (Cicely) Rose King (died 1929), formerly a professional singer of light opera under the name Rose le Roi. After Gill died an inventory of over 750 of his carved inscriptions was compiled, in addition to the over 100 stone sculptures and reliefs, 1000 engravings, the several typeface designs he created and his 300 printed works including books, articles and pamphlets.

Gill transitioned to sculpture in 1909 and his work often involved references to religious iconography.His attitude to animals, as to some extent to children, was that particularly Victorian combination of scientific curiosity mixed with high emotionalism. He had a brief affair with the family maid while his wife was pregnant and then a relationship with Lillian Meacham, who he met through the Fabian Society. In the period 1930–31, Gill designed the typeface Joanna which he used to hand-set his book, An Essay on Typography. Naturally, the people doing all this objecting often know very little about Gill, save for the fact of his paedophilia, and they trade in misinformation and hearsay.

Most people would make a distinction between a consenting adult modelling for a professional artist and a father inducing his young daughters to spread their legs so he could photograph or draw them for dubious reasons, but Gill apparently did not think that way. The sculpture is undeniably lovely– inspired by The Tempest, the carvings of Ariel in turn inspired the title of the BBC’s in-house newsletter– but herein lies part of the problem, once you know what he got up to and how closely his artwork is tied to the sexual abuse of children and animals.His first sculptures included Madonna and Child (1910), which the art critic Roger Fry described as a depiction of "pathetic animalism", [9] and the almost life-size work now known as Ecstasy (1911).

On January 12, 2022, an activist used a ladder to climb above the entrance to the BBC Broadcasting House in London and preceded to attack the statue of Prospero and Ariel prominently displayed above the door.

The Tate Modern in London, which holds 107 artworks by Gill, has also made this aspect of his life explicit in their displays and catalogue.

But if so, and especially after the revelations on his morally unacceptable intimate misdeeds, should we still place Gill in the pantheon of high arts? Subsequently, Gill submitted proposals for decorations and works in other parts of the Cathedral building and, eventually, his design for the Chapel of Saint George and the English Martyrs was commissioned. Gill’s reputation may have been darkened by the truth behind his artistic talent, but that didn’t stop him from maintaining his spotlight in the British art world.In terms of what goes on behind closed doors, both now and then – a Hell of a lot more than we are aware of. I was there at the invitation of the museum’s director, Nathaniel Hepburn, who had read a column I’d once written about the vexed issue of censorship and the arts. D. Caröe, specialists in ecclesiastical architecture with a large office close to Westminster Abbey.

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