Eric Gill


Arthur Eric Rowton Gill (1882 – 1940) was an English sculptor, typeface designer, and printmaker who is associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. Despite being strictly religious, Gill is infamous for his use of erotic imagery. Gill received the highest British award for designers, namely the Royal Designer for Industry. He was also an Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts.


Born in 1882 in Brighton, Gill was the second of thirteen children of Cicely Rose King and Reverend Arthur Tidman Gill, minister of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. Creativity ran in the family; Gill was the elder brother of successful graphic designer MacDonald "Max" Gill (1884–1947). In 1897, the family moved to Chichester, where Gill studied at Chichester Technical and Art School.


Three years later, Gill moved to London to train as an architect with W. D. Caröe, specialists in ecclesiastical architecture. Frustrated with his training, he took evening classes in stonemasonry at the Westminster Technical Institute, and calligraphy classes at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where Edward Johnston, creator of the iconic London Underground typeface, became a strong influence. In 1903, he gave up his architectural training entirely, deciding instead to become a calligrapher, letter-cutter and monumental mason. He married gilder Ethel Moore, and the couple moved into 20 Black Lion Lane in West London’s Hammersmith, near Edward Johnston's home on Hammersmith Terrace.


Around 1910, Gill began direct carving stone figures. Though his early semi-abstract sculptures, which drew from Egyptian, Greek, Indian, and ecclesiastical statuary, attracted criticism, Gill found success with Mother and Child (1912).  


Following a move to the hamlet of Capel-y-ffin, near the English-Welsh border, Gill established his own workshop and printing press, where he guided numerous apprentices who went on to find success as sculptors, including Walter Richie, David Kindersley, and John Skelton.


Today, public works by Eric Gill can be found around England; Gill carved three sculptures for Transport for London at 55 Broadway, as well as two seahorses and a large stone relief of Odysseus for the Art Deco Midland Hotel in Lancashire. Furthermore, Gill’s legacy lives on in the popular typefaces he designed: Perpetua (1925), Gill Sans Serif (1927), Joanna (1930), and Pilgrim (1953).