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That Eric Gill debate!


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Greetings all,

I came across this correspondence and the original article while searching the net for information on a book by Gill.

May I offer a different perspective? I admire his art, and as a journalist I am familiar with the typeface he designed.

There is no doubt that he was bizarre, perverted even by relaxed modern standards and undoubtedly "sinful" by Christian standards. Few of us, if we knew of a man living as Gill did, would not regard him, personally, as beyond the pale. His actions (tolerated by leading Catholics and others who were aware of his oddities but protected him) would result in imprisonment now - as they should have in his own time. Indeed, he might even have been regarded as certifiably insane.

But I suggest your correspondents should not set themselves up as art censors and art banners on the basis of the recognized wrongs of the artist.

Gill produced MUCH excellent work, some of which was totally asexual - and deeply religious in nature, including illustrations for a Golden Cockerel Press limited (fine art) edition of The Four Gospels.

You may justly denigrate the content of some of his work as offending your sensibilities and those of mainstream Christian orthodoxies, but he was one of the great masters of his craft and you would never be able to expunge the admiration many rightly accord his work.

Understand that some of the greatest geniuses have been deeply flawed, and have sinned. Some leading lights of your own church have committed grievous sins, in modern times as in ancient.

And many beautiful and inspiring religious works have been produced by great artists who were not "nice men" by your conservative definition. Leonardo and Michelangelo were both practicing homosexuals. So would you go and destroy the magnificent Pieta? Or have the walls of the Sistine Chapel removed and sold off? Burn The Last Supper? Would you stand back and let some other, more zealous critic, do?

Being gay was, in any case, the mildest of "deviances." Some of Leonardo and Michelangelo's artist contemporaries, most employed at one time or another by the Church, did exceedingly evil deeds, including murder.

Recognize instead that all men are flawed, that only your God is perfect, and that you are duty bound to forgive, and pray for sinners. It is far easier to rant and rage than it is to be a loving Christian and seek the redeeming elements in our fellow men, no?

As for the question "Who is responsible for finding these David Ho and Eric Gill type people and their 'art' and how they made their way into a traditional Catholic paper" - Gill and his art have been part of the Church and its papers for longer than most of you have been alive. And his "art" is undoubtedly art, without the snide quotes - you simply do not like it, for perfectly valid reasons.

Trying to argue that Gill was not a great artist - albeit a greatly flawed human - is an irrelevant waste of time.

I hope this might steer the discussion into a more practical direction than the simply disapproving attacks on some contributors that have characterized it thus far.

Enjoy your debate!


     T.K.
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TIA responds:

Mr. T.K.

We are sorry that we are only now answering your letter from some months ago. It was misplaced in our files.

Mr. Odou’s articles on Eric Gill and the support TIA gave to them should be judged from the point of view of Morals, as you correctly did, and not from an artistic viewpoint.

Odou’s critique of Gill’s Way of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral was to raise the possibility that the religious authority was protecting and promoting a pedophile, not a bad artist.

Regarding art, while we disagree with your praise of Gill’s work and style, we do not want to initiate a debate on the topic. It would be a waste of time. In this respect, we are on the same page.

However, your attempt to validate a Catholic magazine that is promoting Gill without giving any warning to its readers about his scandalous life, did not succeed. You certainly are right regarding the use of Gill’s fonts or logos by this magazine. You certainly are wrong when this magazine presents Gill as a pedagogue to teach children or as a pioneer of a new system of living and economics – Distributism - that should be adopted by Catholics.

     Cordially,

     TIA correspondence desk
Posted December 27, 2005

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