Print Room Projects

Claire Jacob, Class of 2018, Theology and Religious Studies

“The Resurrection,” 1917, wood engraving, PC2016.14.34

“The Resurrection,” 1917, wood engraving, PC2016.14.34

Eric Gill (1882-1940)

Eric Gill (1882-1940) was an English essayist, engraver, sculptor, and typographical designer who regarded himself foremost as a craftsman rather than an artist. His works are primarily influenced by his passionate dedication to and reconciliation of the ideologies of Fabian Socialism, anti-materialism, and Roman Catholicism. Gill was so influenced by his unique mix of philosophies that his art cannot be fully understood without some comprehension of these philosophies. He considered art to be a product of good work and to be a rhetorical rather than aesthetic activity making it a potent tool for him to express his deeply held convictions. Even today, many of his works remain startling and thought-provoking with their mingling of religiosity, sensuality, and socialist themes.

In our recently acquired collection of Eric Gill engravings and woodcuts donated by Michael and Hillary Hanson, Gill’s high regard for great craftsmanship is immediately obvious with diverse subjects including portraiture, religious scenes, fantasy, the erotic, and ordinary secular life. Intimacy and precision characterize his prints as demonstrated by its condensed, simple scenes. Furthermore subtleness is illustrated by fine lines and utilization of every detail to pack a powerful visual impact. Gill’s disdain for materialism is shown in his tendency to focus on the living subject rather than material object.

 

With the works selected for this small exhibition, I wish to allow viewers to explore not only his masterful compositions, but also his unique depictions of spirituality. Gill seeks to rectify the sacred and profane through his portrayals of Christ, and, more generally, the divine. For instance, in Mary Magdalen—a portrayal of the woman anointing Jesus with perfume featured in the Gospels—the scene is so condensed that it may strike one as claustrophobic at first glance. Contained in the perimeters of a small square frame a woman with long, flowing hair freely pours a jar of perfume onto Christ’s head below. Christ bows his head with a peaceful expression of ecstasy on his face; his large eyes, long eyelashes, full lips, and flowing hair feminize his features presenting Christ as an androgynous being full of tenderness and compassion for all. Mary Magdalen's face reflects pure bliss and inner tranquility and two men curiously look on. The interaction between Christ and Mary Magdalen creates an intimate but lavish image which speaks for Christ’s relishment in human love and the absolute pleasure and satisfaction humanity may experience from loving the divine. In the selected prints, Gill characterizes Christ as compassionate to all of creation including non-human creatures, delightful to the senses, and as a being that celebrates sensuousness in terms familiar to earthly humanity. In his view, the sacred and worldly are not separate, clashing forces of the good and evil, but interconnected and accessible to humanity for the purpose of experiencing God’s divine love.

 

“St Mary Magdalen,” 1926, wood engraving, PC2016.14.66

“St Mary Magdalen,” 1926, wood engraving, PC2016.14.66

“Madonna and Child: The Shrimp,” 1922, wood engraving, PC2016.14.47

“Madonna and Child: The Shrimp,” 1922, wood engraving, PC2016.14.47

“The Resurrection,” 1917, wood engraving, PC2016.14.34

“The Resurrection,” 1917, wood engraving, PC2016.14.34

Claire Jacob, Class of 2018, Theology and Religious Studies

Claire Jacob worked as an intern from Intercession to Spring 2017 in the Hoehn Print Study Room cataloguing a gift of Eric Gill prints donated by Michael and Hillary Hanson.  You can view these prints and more in person in the Hoehn Print Study Room, Founders Hall 102.