Eric Gill, A.R.A. (1882-1940)
This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal.… Read more THE PROPERTY OF THE MEYNELL FAMILY
Eric Gill, A.R.A. (1882-1940)

Nude Girl with Hair

Eric Gill, A.R.A. (1882-1940)
Nude Girl with Hair
signed with initials 'EG' (on the side)
Capel-y-ffin stone relief
32½ in. (82.5 cm.) wide
Carved in October 1925.
Purchased directly from the artist by Sir Francis and Vera Meynell, and by descent.
F. MacCarthy, Eric Gill, London, 1989, pl. 72, as 'Girl'.
J. Collins, Eric Gill The Sculpture: A Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1998, p. 150, no. 164, illustrated.
P. Curtis and K. Wilson (eds.), exhibition catalogue, Modern British Sculpture, London, Royal Academy, 2011, p. 63, no. 12, illustrated.
W. Januszczak, 'Art review: Eric Gill at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft', The Sunday Times, London, 7 May 2017, illustrated.
London, Goupil Gallery, The Goupil Gallery Salon, November - December 1925, no. 476, as 'Nude'.
Munich, Group Exhibition, 1930, catalogue not traced.
London, Royal Academy, Modern British Sculpture, January - April 2011, no. 12.
Ditchling, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Eric Gill: The Body, April - September 2017, exhibition not numbered.
Special notice

This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Christie’s Park Royal. All collections from Christie’s Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

Brought to you by

Louise Simpson
Louise Simpson

Lot Essay

‘I was responsible for her very existence and her every form came straight out of my heart’ (E. Gill, Autobiography, London, 1940, p. 159).

Carved in 1925, Nude Girl with Hair, was conceived while Gill and his family stayed in Capel-y-ffin, a remote village in the Black Mountains, on the border between England and Wales. Moving there in 1924 Gill, along with two other families – the Attwaters and the Cribbs – stayed at the monastery at Capel on the invitation of the monks. Gill humorously records, ‘Three families left Ditchling – three fathers, three mothers, seven children … one pony, chickens, cats, dogs, goats, ducks and geese, two magpies and the luggage’ (ibid., p. 216).

This set-up suited Gill who, having been born to an Anglican Parson father and who’s grandfather and great uncle were Congregationalist missionaries in the South Sea Islands, was a deeply spiritual man. This sense of faith was not only reflected in his strive for purity and the sacred in his art but also in his writings, where he discussed the relationship between the artist and God: ‘The artist purely as such is the creator; he collaborates with God in creating’ … ‘All the best art is religious … All art that is godly, that is, made without concern for worldly advantage is religious’ (E. Gill, quoted in J. Collins, exhibition catalogue, Eric Gill: Sculpture, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1993, p. 65). This emphasis on the spiritual was supported by Gill’s younger brother Cecil who stated, ‘One cannot begin to understand Eric, or his life, his work, and his teaching, without understanding, even if not wholly accepting, this deep spring of this being: the incarnation of Jesus Christ’ (C. Gill, quoted in C. Gill, B. Warde and D. Kindersley, The Life and Works of Eric Gill, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles, 1968, pp. 1-2).

Gill, in his correspondence with Herbert Read in the 1930s, discussed the need for the personal and the instinctive in art, as well as his fears for the industrial and mass-produced. He strove to find ‘the essence of the thing called art’ stating that ‘the idea of the artist is “formative of things and not formed by them”. The form and the content are inseparable’ (E. Gill, quoted in J. Collins, exhibition catalogue, Eric Gill: Sculpture, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1993, p. 16). The essence for Gill manifested itself in the figure sculpture he began in 1909, with his first figurative carving Estin Thalassa, joyfully recording that it was like ‘A new alphabet – the world was made flesh’ (E. Gill, quoted in ibid., p. 16).

Gill began to carve in stone, enjoying the directness of the method, where there was no intermediary between the concept and the final outcome. He discussed this with Herbert Read naively stating ‘First I think then I draw my think’ (E. Gill, quoted in ibid., p. 16). Gill’s masterful skill of carving can be seen in Nude Girl with Hair, where he intricately depicts her cascading hair, with her hand poetically running through it, the soft curvature of her breasts and her beautiful classical face, which he turns to the side away from the viewer, rendering her a mix of shyness, vulnerability and sultriness. Gill strove for beauty in his work, aiming to express a profane and sacred love. He described, ‘The sculptor, as any other artist, is primarily a herald, and his work heraldic. His business is to achieve in the things he makes the discovery of Beauty and to proclaim it. By the word ‘Beauty’ I do not mean merely the loveliness of the earth or living things, but that absolute entity, which like Goodness and Truth is apprehended by conscience’ (E. Gill, quoted in ibid., p. 47).

This exploration of love can be seen, in part, to stem from the philosopher and pioneering historian of Indian art Ananda Coomaraswamy, who Gill greatly admired. He stated ‘I can only say that I believe that no other living writer has written the truth in matters of art and life and religion and piety with such wisdom and understanding’ (E. Gill, Autobiography, London, 1940, p. 174). Coomaraswamy offered a deep and first-hand experience of Indian and Ceylonese arts and crafts, the appreciation of which had began in the 1870s, spearheaded by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and John Everett Millais and was continued by Gill. Drawn to the celebration of love, which was often expressed simultaneously as a spiritual and erotic love, Gill looked to the examples of the ancient Indian carvings of the Elephanta and Elura caves for inspiration. In January 1911, he wrote to William Rothenstein who was travelling in India, ‘Epstein … and I agree with you in your suggestion that the best route to Heaven is via Elephanta, Elura and Ajanta’ (E. Gill, quoted in op. cit., p. 25).

Gill held his first solo show at the Chenil Gallery in Chelsea in 1911, where Roger Fry recognised his natural ability and skill: ‘One realises before Mr Gill’s simple, sincere and deeply felt images … We can see Mr Gill finding out about the structure of the figure, and each discovery is not given to us, not as an act, but as a vividly apprehended emotional experience. And, owing to his technical skill, each discovery is rendered with unhesitating certainty and power. The result is that these figures are not more or less successful copies of that desperately unreal and fictitious thing, the model posing in the studio, but positive creations, the outcome of a desire to express something felt in the adventure of human life. And, Mr Gill, having a religious faith in the value and significance of life, has said what he thinks’ (R. Fry, quoted in J. Collins, exhibition catalogue, Eric Gill: Sculpture, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1993, pp. 21-22).

However, it was not until after the war that Gill’s career really took off, working on commissions for Trumpington War Memorial, Leeds University, the Wind relief series for Charles Holden’s headquarters for the London Electric Railway (now Transport for London) in St James’s, London, and the series of sculptures, such as Prospero and Ariel he produced for the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London. Gill’s finest works are his carvings of the 1920s and 30s, such as Eve (1930) (sold in these Rooms, 25 November, lot 3) and St Joan of Arc (1932) (sold in these Rooms, 25 June 2015, lot 4, for the world auction record price of £2.2 million). The present work, which has been in the current owner’s family since it was carved in 1925, offers a rare opportunity to acquire one of Gill’s finest carvings from his most prolific period.

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