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Eric Gill Paperback – January 10, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (January 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571143024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571143023
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,673,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An English artist-craftsman in the tradition of William Morris, Eric Gill (1882-1940) exemplifies the search for a lifestyle to heal the split between work and leisure, art and industry. He is remembered today for his fine engravings and stone carvings, his legendary typefaces and book designs for the Golden Cockerel Press. Yet there was another side to the man, downplayed by previous biographers: a fervent convert to Catholicism and leader of three Catholic arts-and-crafts communes, Gill had a hyperactive libido which extended to incest with his sisters and daughters, as well as numerous extramarital affairs, according to British writer MacCarthy. He rationalized his penile acrobatics by inventing a bizarre pseudoreligious theory. In MacCarthy's candid portrait, Gill, who preserved the outward image of a devout father-figure, was neither saint nor humbug, but a highly sexed creative artist trapped by his Victorian concept of masculinity. This charismatic firebrand was a renegade Fabian socialist, a bohemian friend of Augustus John and Bertrand Russell. His adventurous life, as re-created in this beautifully written, absorbing biography, is disturbingly relevant to our time. Photos.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Sculptor, engraver, and one of the 20th century's greatest typographers, Gill considered himself a craftsman, never an artist. A devout convert to Roman Catholicism, he believed in an integrated, religious life centered on the home and on making one's own clothes, food, and crafts. Yet despite a happy marriage and adherence to certain Victorian ideals, Gill flaunted traditional morality by engaging in countless affairs as well as incestuous relationships with both his sisters and daughters. Largely ignored by earlier scholars, these intriguing contradictions are fully explored in this carefully researched and uncensored biography. MacCarthy remains nonjudgmental yet inquisitive as she searches for the essence of this puzzling man. Through her skillful treatment, Gill emerges as a commanding figure, vital and brimming with creative energy rooted in masculine sexuality. Recommended.
- Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
In her Introduction Fiona MacCarthy sketches out a picture of Eric Gill (1882 to 1940) which differs greatly from reverent earlier biographies written by fellow-Catholics. These were reluctant to dwell on the contradictions in Gill’s character - the guru of a simple and spiritual life on the one hand and his rampant sexual life on the other. The author brings out these and many other contradictions very well, and the reader will be torn between admiration and dislike. The book also has many illustrations and photographs, some of which perhaps come out better in the printed edition than they do on the Kindle. They make us familiar with the Gill style.

He was the second of thirteen children of a Protestant clergyman who was very Victorian: patriarchal, strict, admonitory, but warm. Although Eric would turn against most of what his father had stood for, MacCarthy traces many of his later interests and attitudes back to his childhood.

At the age of 15 he went to an art school in Chichester, where he developed an interest in lettering, which would become intensified and which he practised in both its calligraphic and its carved form when he moved to London at age 18 to study architecture. (It was not until he was in his fifties, in his last years, that he actually designed a building: a church at Gorleston-on-Sea.) He was at that time committed to the Arts and Crafts philosophy and to William Morris’ socialism, and he saw himself as a working man. He soon got enough lettering commissions (the diplomat Count Harry Kessler, a lover of fine books, was a great patron) to enable him to marry Ethel, the daughter of a Chichester florist, at the age of 22.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gill's art has no equal. It stands alone as sophisticated primitivism, as demonstration of where Art Nouveau could have flexed some muscle, and as an oeuvre of startling breadth. Although he called himself a stone-carver, he's most widely remembered today as a type designer (Gill Sans, anyone?) and woodcut illustrator. Since those are inherently reproducible media and stone is not, I can't say I'm surprised that they're how his reputation spread.

More than that. Gill was a devout Catholic (at least in later life), borderline or occasional socialist, and productive writer on his notion of The Good Life, one where worship, art, and livelihood merged together into one unified whole. Reading his philosophy and autobiography, one gets the impression of some holy being, left on earth to elevate the rest of us. And, in fact, he might very well have been that.

At the same time, he had trouble keeping friendships (with men, at least) past the first conflict - and, where his will and ego were concerned, conflict seemed certain, sooner or later. Many people advanced his life and career at different times, often with significant financial support. His gratitude toward them was a matter of cheap and easy words, if he even bothered with that. And his notions of Man as the lord of his household took on a somewhat predatory tone, as his private diaries showed, in bedding so many of those who came under his influence, sister, daughters, and possibly family pets included. (One can barely imagine how his wife came to grips with that part of her husband.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mianfei on December 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
Those who feel amazed at how the Catholic Church, which condemns all sex outside marriage as sins against natural law, has nonetheless protected pedophile priests for many years, will be less surprised after reading Ellis Hanson's expose of how for a long time people guilty of what the Church considers even worse sexual sins could find that these sins, from the perspective of Catholic theology, could be seen as actually leading them to redemption.

Eric Gill, who lived form 1882 to 1940, was the most extreme manifestation of this. An intensely confessional man towards his religious superiors, Gill nonetheless was unable to contain his sexual appetites towards his children and even his family's dog. Despite this appalling sexual behaviour, there was a lot more of interest about the man, who indeed combined a remarkable array of talents. In his lifetime Gill was best known as a typographer, but he was also a social activist in the tradition of Dorothy Day, advocating like Day that workers should be able to own the means of production. Also, Gill in the 1930s was one of the most outspoken opponents of Britain going to war. In fact, in his later life Gill was inclined to try to develop with variable success communities in which crafts could be worked in this way. With all this work, Gill also had time to work on research: indeed he was one of the developers of the "rhythm method" or "natural family planning". All in all, with the detail provided by Fiona MacCarthy, one can see Gill as perhaps the first "hippie" in terms of his ideals, which stand as amazingly relevant to the 1960s counterculture.
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