Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eric Gill


While reading Peter Anson's biography, "A Roving Recluse", I came across the name Eric Gill. Gill was an English artist-lay Roman Catholic theologian/thinker who was very prominent in the arts and crafts movement. He was a brilliant artist who attracted many apprentices to work under him. He completed numerous high profile commissions, including a series of Stations of the Cross found in Westminster Cathedral. In addition he developed many new fonts and typefaces that are still in use today. On the literary front he wrote learned essays on economics and religion.

Anson was friends with Gill. They had much in common: both were converts to Roman Catholicism, both had a lot of interest in religious life, and both were artists. Anson spent a lot of time with him and his family, which lived like a quasi-religious community, with daily mass (they had a chaplain), and recitation of the Divine Office (in its Dominican form). Since he spoke so very highly of him in Roving Recluse, and since I'd never heard of him before I thought I'd look him up on the internet. What I found was fascinating. It turns out Eric Gill was quite the sicko. He was a sexual pervert of the highest caliber who had sexual relations throughout his life with his own children, with animals, with men, as well as with his wife. Apparently he went mad before he died of lung cancer at a pretty young age. One of the things that freaks me out the most about this guy is that Peter Anson thought he was so great, and such a wonderful and holy man, despite the fact that Gill flaunted his sexual misbehavior! It is well known today. In fact, there was a movement to have his "stations" removed from Westminster Cathedral because of his openly scandalous life - especially involving the abuse of minors. Personally I would not condone removing such beautiful pieces - even if a sick person did create them. I tend to hold Anson in high regard, but here he is completely off base.

Examples of Gill's art may be seen here. It speaks for itself. The religious work is quite good - nice graphic art, but a few of the examples reveal his bizarre sexual proclivities. A biography of this strange man is available, and there is some provocative information on him at this website.

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