Friday, 13 July 2007

To Ditchling

I went the other week to Ditchling, a pretty village in Sussex, not far from Lewes. It was here that Eric Gill lived from 1907 until the 1920s.

He founded a community of artists, the Guild of St Dominic. The work of the Guild, and in particular the relationship between Gill and his protege Joseph Cribb, is the subject of a fascinating exhibition in the village.

Eric Gill, the brilliant but flawed artist who is one of England's finest carvers and letterers, produced some of the greatest works of art and devotion in Westminster Cathedral. More about him here.

The house above, Sopers, is where the Gill family lived in Ditchling from 1907 to 1913. The fact is commemorated by a plaque on the wall (below).

At Ditchling, Gill carved his earliest work - the Westminster Cathedral Stations of the Cross that made his name. he depicted himself as Simon of Cyrene on the Fifth Station, as a pious reference to his own desire to carry the cross of Christ.

The photograph below shows Gill at his workshop, carving one of his last works - the altarpiece for the chapel of St George. Christ on the cross, as Priest and King, is shown between St Thomas More and St John Fisher.

And here is the piece in situ in the chapel:


Anonymous said...

Although the works are wonderful every time I looked at them I would be thinking of the secret life of the man who carved them. I don't think they should be in the cathedral.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a sad story of how Gill's brilliant and religious carving of St Thomas More was "altered" by the removal of St Thomas's pet monkey,by order of Cathedral authorities ? I am sorry to be toolazy to go and look it up,but I think it caused comment at the time,probably,both pro-and anti. The Cathedral authorities have had quite a time removing awkward decorations, pace, the story of the painted inscription as to what the Cardinal ought to go and do. I wonder if any naughty people photographed it before the offending word was painted out ?
Alan Robinson

John the organist said...

So anonymous would ban a work of art because of the lifestyle of the artist? And what of religious works by non-believers? This is a minefield - far better to let the Holy Spirit work through whatever vehicle God chooses. Otherwise we lose too much - Caravaggio, Mozart, Vaughan Williams. Judge not that ye be not judged!