Friday, 15 December 2017

Friday 15th December: Now When Jesus...

I apologise in advance but today is Eric Gill day on Blogvent.  Brace yourselves and feel free to have a shower afterwards...

Now When Jesus...(1931) Eric Gill
Now, you'll remember from this post that Eric Gill and his art are fraught with difficulties.  His actions are so repellent and criminal that it is hard to look at his art without feeling it to be tainted.  So, how do you approach Biblical art from such an artist?

Madonna and Child (1919)

There is no doubt, whatever else he was, Eric Gill considered himself a religious man.  I say 'considered himself' as I'm not sure anyone else would find his actions compatible with Christianity, but that's by-the-by.  Gill produced many religious illustrations, including illustrations for The Four Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ According to the Authorized Version of King James I (1931).

Madonna and Child with Angel (1916)
It's odd to think that William Morris and Eric Gill have anything in common but of course both worked through private presses (Gill's press once belonged to Morris), and Gill, through The Golden Cockerel Press, took control over the design, font and illustration of books such as The Four Gospels.  In his artist's colony, the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, he co-founded a religious, artistic community where belief and creation of art were closely linked.

The Nativity
Gill's art depended on the stark contrasts between black and white and his use of line.  The Virgin isn't particularly different from the other figures, her face simply defined, but his work is at its best when he combines the lettering with his pictures. 'Now When Jesus' shows Mary and Jesus sheltering under the down-slope of the 'N'.  His work is both primitive and sophisticated, and influential (see this post on similar illustrations for a Tennyson edition).  His religious illustrations have a solidness, a simplicity that defines between dark and light in a literal and spiritual manner.  They are such a contrast to the overly detailed Victorian 'realness', either the rather anglicised examples of Home-County Marys or Holman Hunt's attempts at verisimilitude through the Holy Lands.  Gill dispenses with all that and brings us lines and curves that represent belief and the power lies in our familiarity with what is being shown and what we bring to such deceptive simplicity.

See you tomorrow...

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Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx