Looking for Mr Gill...

Si_Daniels's picture
timd's picture

Who gave that scary kid an axe?

The Eric Gill story I am sure will raise a few hackles. When I embarked on the series I said that I wanted to use my camera to surprise myself and my neighbours. I think I was using my camera as an archaeologist might use a trowel - digging for memory, looking for hidden truths in the village. The Eric Gill film is a very personal journey. I make no claims to be an art historian or to have anything particularly original to say about Eric Gill, but for me it was a fascinating personal journey. In a sense I was thinking about my dad and his art history. The extraordinary thing is that Gill was in this village because of his relationship with Edward Johnston, the great calligrapher and font designer, and Johnston was my father's tutor at the Royal College of Art in the 1920s. So it's not just a film about art; it's a film about community and personal history. Luke Holland (director)

Tim

ak's picture

a reminder of how scary small-town england is.

entracte.co.uk

T Bones's picture

[Edit]

blank's picture

Somebody stick it on youtube!

timd's picture

Somebody stick it on youtube!

Doesn't that equate to offering pirated fonts?

Especially since it is available for purchase.

The BBC is going to offer some programmes for free download, whether this will be covered I don't know because it is made by a separate production company, and the offer might be restricted to the UK.

Tim

aluminum's picture

"Doesn’t that equate to offering pirated fonts?"

Only if you are selling it for profit.

Otherwise, it's merely copyright infringement.

timd's picture

Only if you are selling it for profit.

I don't see that selling it or not makes any difference, taking a copy of somebody's work and making it available to the public, thereby denying the author their due payment, is piracy, whether that work is a font, a piece of music or a film.

Tim

Conor's picture

Getting back to the actual programme…

…I found it wonderfully sympathetic and insightful. I was slightly disturbed by the familial acceptance of his promiscuity, something the whole town, it seems, turned a blind eye to. His flashing exploits I found humorous. I can’t remember the exact quote from one of his elderly neighbours – something about his balls being bigger than his brains?

Conor's picture

Can’t say I’m too intrigued by the rest of the series…

– Saving the village pub
– Backstage at a Ditchling musical
– Four post-octogenarian ladies
– A farming and hunting moan

T Bones's picture

I think that Gill and his twisted sister (and animals) would have had much in common with Edward and Tubbs, the inbred shopkeepers of Royston Vassey.

Conor's picture

Ditchling, Capel-Y-Ffin and Royston Vassey

T Bones's picture

lol. He was a great artist and craftsman, but he was also one very sick puppy. Or should I say he made his puppy very sick!

timd's picture

>– Four post-octogenarian ladies

I thought the old dears in the film who remembered the community were actually far more honest than many of the others who tried to divorce the sensuality of Gill from his art.
local carving for local people

Tim

T Bones's picture

tim,

Absolutely, but did you notice that some of the old dears drank some form of Pernod for almost any occasion/reason. I think that this helped loosen their tongues! Plus, in my experience I find that those English ladies of a certain era and social class always seem to tell it like it is.

aluminum's picture

"I don’t see that selling it or not makes any difference, taking a copy of somebody’s work and making it available to the public, thereby denying the author their due payment, is piracy"

This is the definition the RIAA has been using, but is not the traditional term.

Piracy refers to making fake product...be it physical or an illegal copy of an electronic medium and then selling it for profit. An illegal business.

Copying something without the end-user's permission is copyright infringement.

I'm not 'for' either one, of course. I just think it's important we note the difference between the terms.

Back to Gill:

"As if dog fondling, sister shagging paedophiles could ever live anywhere else!"

Can anyone expound on that? Is there more to Gill's history than what (little) I know of? ;o)

timd's picture

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eric-Gill-Fiona-MacCarthy/dp/0571143024/sr=8-2/q...

I recommend this biography of Gill to read about his private life (and his work), whether parts of it would be classed as paedophilia or just(!) incest is debatable.

Thanks for the definition of piracy.

Tim

bokkah's picture

The sad part is that the "little tinman" is actually a girl and "Ann of green gables" is a boy.

Si_Daniels's picture

>The sad part is

Why is that sad? The age-old English tradition of cross-dressing (AKA Panto) is one on the country's most noble exploits.

Did the series run on Canadian TV?

Nick Shinn's picture

I haven't seen the program yet.
I kinda knew he was a free-love drop-out commie hippy artist.
Did it say anything about drugs?

jordy's picture

OK, Eric Gill was a bit daffy in many ways, but he was a wonderful artist, a gifted type designer as well as a sculptor. Yes, the Fiona MacCarthy bio is a must read. The history of art is littered with artists who were not the purest of the pure, like Caravaggio for example, who is reputed to have murdered someone. (I didn't Google this, just have a vague memory from old art history classes) Are artists or designers supposed to be saints? I mean I smoked dope and never inhaled either. Just kidding.
Jordan

William Berkson's picture

>a free-love drop-out commie hippy artist.

>bit daffy in many ways ...not the purest of the pure

From what I read in the links above, MacCarthy documents that Gill committed heinous crimes against his own children.

Si_Daniels's picture

So, as they say, what do you plan to do about it? A silent protest, maybe refusing to use Gill Sans, or any humanist sans that was influenced by it? Maybe a boycott of Saab and the BBC?

William Berkson's picture

>what do you plan to do about it?

I just did it.

Si_Daniels's picture

fair enough

T Bones's picture

"Are artists or designers supposed to be saints?"

No, but neither does their occupation exempt them from behaving in ways that most sane people would doubtless agree are socially unacceptable and abhorrent. Child abuse is illegal for good reason, not simply because people are prudish or that they are moral pontificators. Gill, after all, was a man who claimed to be a devout catholic, working on carvings of the twelve Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral, only to then come home to groom his children so that he could sodomise them. Caravaggio might well have murdered, we don't know. Gill, however, explicitly documents his abuse in writing, and some of his unhealthier passions fed his work.

I don't know whether Gill was a hypocrite, mentally unwell or both, but for me personally, the edge is taken off from enjoying many of his (non lettering) works, knowing that much of his inspiration was generated by incestuous yearning and paedophilia. To me, the physical qualities of his work remain undiminished but when I was made aware that both his artistic and sinister personal life were deeply entwined, I found it quite difficult to view and engage with them in quite the same way that I did, prior to my knowledge of his abusive tendencies.

Jackie Frant's picture

Does anyone know if PBS is planning on buying the rights from the BBC to show it in America?

Or do we, boohoo, miss out?

Don McCahill's picture

> Does anyone know if PBS is planning on buying the rights from the BBC to show it in America?

How much have you donated to your PBS station in the past year. If it is more than a few dollars, they should be anxious to hear your opinions on programming, and might respond well to a request for the program.

And if you haven't donated: they will still probably listen to you, but you might feel a little less comfortable about asking them to spend the money that others have given.

Nick Shinn's picture

It's problematic to pass moral judgement on those of another era, when values and laws were different than today.

Hypocrisy is however a charge that can be levelled at those of earlier times (if being true to one's values is considered a virtue). In that case, Eric Gill was no hyopcrite; he genuinely believed that society was wrong to the core, across the board, and was radical in politics, morality, dress, religion, and of course typography.

T Bones's picture

"It’s problematic to pass moral judgement on those of another era, when values and laws were different than today."

Child abuse was as equally wrong 70 years or more ago as it is today. I am sure most people in Gill's era would have found his acts repulsive, regardless of moral stance.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I'm not trying to start a debate. This conversation is good, but maybe we should all consider that each of us is welcome to have our own opinions.

My opinion: This might seem like a radical idea, but I believe in the idea of forgiveness and repentance, even with opportunity to do so after death. Therefore I have no idea if Eric Gill decided what he did was not such a good idea. None of us really do. Even his journal has proved to be full of stretched truth and poor memory for fact. I admire his work as an artist and typographer. I choose to ignore the rest and hope all has been made right. It isn't my place to judge him.

dezcom's picture

At the New York TypeCon 2 years ago, there was a speaker who made a presentation on Gill's diaries and writings. Until that presentation, I knew nothing about Gill's travesties. That was the only presentation that I walked out on. I just couldn't stomach a man who would inflict his depravities on his own children. This was not religious or social radicalism, it was his way of justifying his raping of his own children. Whether he lived in the caveman days, the Dark Ages, or modern times Gill was a despicable piece of rat infested scum regardless of whatever artistic skills he may have posessed.
OJ was a great running back and Caligula was a skilled fidler.

ChrisL

Miss Tiffany's picture

Hmm. Maybe my rose color glasses are on a little too tight. :^/

I should add, before someone jumps down my throat, that I DO NOT CONDONE THE THINGS WHICH PEOPLE HAVE SAID GILL DID. Not at all.

William Berkson's picture

>being true to one’s values is considered a virtue

Sartre was willing to put authenticity above other virtues, but he was a rotten fellow (though not as bad as Gill). His 'ethics' are poisonous. If a person's values are rotten, then his sincere belief in them seems to me to be little compensation. Any day I'll take a person who speaks hypocritically about liking everyone, and is actually kind, over someone who is sincere, vicious and cruel.

>It’s problematic to pass moral judgement on those of another era, when values and laws were different than today.

Child abuse was recognized as illegal and immoral then, as it is now, so what's problematic? And being an authentic rebel does not, in my book, give you a free pass to selfish and cruel--as well as immoral and illegal.

Added: Just read Tiffany's post. The thing is, Gill is beyond forgiveness or non-forgiveness, except by the Big Guy Upstairs. All we can do is, as Tiffany said, is to not condone in any way rotten behavior that severely hurts people.

dezcom's picture

Tiff,
None of what I said was aimed at you or anyone else in this forum. You are entitled to your opinion without any worry. My reaction is purely to Gill. My children are the joy of my life. I just can't bear the thought of a parent abusing his children.

ChrisL

timd's picture

AFAIK there was no age of consent (in law) in the early twentieth century in Britain, but in the mid-19th it was not unacceptable to have sex with a child of 10 to 13, however repugnant we might find that now. Gill's family accepted his incest, although being unwilling to discuss it in public, his elder daughters did not condemn him either. Social mores change.

Tim

aluminum's picture

At least Gill left us with fabulous type. I'm not sure what L. Ron Hubbard has left us other than a bad movie and a really wacky group of hollywood actors. Jesus did leave us that book, but that has seemed to cause as many problems as it has solutions. Of course Hitler left us the VW. So, whether a person is a wacky prophet doesn't seem to directly influence whether they leave a useful legacy or not...

William Berkson's picture

Tim, age of consent for a non-incestuous relationship and incest of a parent with a child are two very different things. Parent and child incest is prohibited in Leviticus (18:7), so it is extremely ancient. I find it hard to believe that in 20th century Britain it was not against the law.

I would like to know what his daughters thought of his behavior as adults, and what is their history. Lack of public condemnation is not indicative of anything, given the taboo on discussing such matters. On the basis of the literature in psychology, I doubt that the subsequent family history is a happy story.

By the way, on the subject of hypocrisy: Gill as well as being such a rebel also claimed to be a devout Catholic. I don't know that much about Catholicism, but to me proclaiming you are a Catholic and practicing incest looks like the height of hyprocrisy.

Nick Shinn's picture

Child abuse was recognized as illegal and immoral then, as it is now, so what’s problematic?

I'm not condoning adult-child sex, merely pointing out that sexual mores and laws vary with time and place. Buggery was legalized in the UK in 1967. The legality of incest (familial proximity, age) varies with country and religion.

T Bones's picture

Well said, Chris.

"Buggery was legalized in the UK in 1967."

Yes, for adults, Nick. Young children who are conditioned to think it is right by people like Gill have no choice, that's why laws are put in place to help defend them against predatory adults.

"The legality of incest (familial proximity, age) varies with country and religion."

Ask any child of any culture, race, era, etc., if they would genuinely like to be buggered by thier dad and I think you'd find the answer would be a resounding NO.

"Gill’s family accepted his incest, although being unwilling to discuss it in public, his elder daughters did not condemn him either."

Once again, paedophiles are notorious for conditioning their victims to accept thier abuse as the norm. This is usually done by using threats that something bad will happen to them if they tell anyone or if they fail to comply with their abuser's demands.

muzzer's picture

**** hell. I am never going to use any of Gills fonts again. "Artistic merit" be damned what he did is unforgiveable. Imagin trying to use joanna knowing who it is named after and what he did. I just can't divorce a person from thier work no matter what.

Muzz

timd's picture

>two very different things
And two separate sentences.

Like Nick has said in his posts, I am not trying to defend his practices, more trying to point out that history should take into account the social mores of the time (and many other contributory factors).

A couple of articles written by Fiona MacCarthy
http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/biography/story/0,,1267659,00.html

http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1825863,00.html

And, I believe, the slides that Chris was referring to
http://www.nd.edu/~jsherman/gill/shermanPresentation.html

And, apparently Gill’s great grandaughter runs this business
http://www.grangetrekking.co.uk/

Tim

T Bones's picture

"history should take into account the social mores of the time"

Was there a climate of general acceptance towards incest and paedophilia in 1920-30's Britain that I am unaware of? This is not ancient history, and most cultures of all eras have realised that incest is genetically counter productive. I suspect that Gill's incestuous activities were not driven by cultural or religious fervour/beliefs; simply a selfish lust.

Like Chris said, "Whether he lived in the caveman days, the Dark Ages, or modern times Gill was a despicable piece of rat infested scum…". Albeit a talented one.

Nick Shinn's picture

Was there a climate of general acceptance towards incest and paedophilia in 1920-30’s Britain that I am unaware of?

Yes, of course. There was more acceptance of paedophilia, the obvious example being the Catholic Church's choirboy problem, which has been going on for many centuries, and only recently been brought out into the open in a few places, and prosecutions and dismissals made.

Also, sex in boys' private schools was accepted as a fact of life. Younger pupils were made "****" or servants of older pupils. Sex was not formally part of the arrangement, but the more common meaning of that word is not a coincidence.

People were more reticent about their private lives then, and there were no sex researchers, so really, we have no idea how much incest was going on.

William Berkson's picture

>There was more acceptance of paedophilia, the obvious example being the Catholic Church’s choirboy problem

'Acceptance' is highly misleading, as there was certainly no public acceptance of child abuse by priests, but rather public condemnation of such activities in the strongest terms.

To repeat, parent-child incest should not be muddled with other sexual issues. There was never acceptance of parent-child incest, so far as I know, in any culture, anywhere. Of course it has gone on, but that is not the same thing as moral acceptance. And as far as I know, according current psychological research, parent-child incest is one of the most psychologically damaging and burdensome things one can do to a child.

Soft pedaling Gill's heinous crimes does no one any favors.

T Bones's picture

I agree with William that 'acceptance' is is misleading. The fact that there has been abuse within the Catholic Church, public schools and other closeted places, does in no way suggest that the wider society either wanted it or that they would tolerate it. Indeed, it was probably the emerging awareness of these goings on which led to schools, etc. to intentionally making it harder for these people to be with children.

Nick Shinn's picture

Of course it has gone on, but that is not the same thing as moral acceptance.

I haven't seen the doc, but Conor's comment speaks to this:

"I was slightly disturbed by the familial acceptance of his promiscuity, something the whole town, it seems, turned a blind eye to."

If that's not moral acceptance, what is?

William Berkson's picture

I don't there is any claim, or evidence, at least in the little I read, that the town knew he was having sex with his daughters.

And I greatly doubt that they did know, since secrecy regularly accompanies incest, from what I have read and seen of victim testimony. He would have well known both the illegality and the official Catholic disapproval of incest, and hence his risk of public humiliation and jail. So the chances of he or his children being open about it are very remote.

Promiscuity is one thing, and parent-child incest quite another, and much graver, matter.

jordy's picture

100 years from now, or 200, when we have left behind our work or lack of same, who will possibly care whether or not a very beautiful type, Joanna, was designed by a pedophile? Long before I read the MacCarthy book and knew only the sanitized biography of Eric Gill I thought that Joanna in metal was a lovely type, especially in the italic. Do we all read the biographies of type designers before we use their types? God forbid what we might find out if we did. Can we, should we, separate the art a person creates from the private life of that person? I condemn the acts Gill committed as much as anyone but I cannot and will not condemn the work he made.

Giampa's picture

Jody,

I would not hang these; http://www.hitler.org/art/buildings/building5.jpg http://www.hitler.org/art/landscapes/landscape6.jpg http://www.hitler.org/art/doodles/doodle6.jpg on my wall even if I liked them, would you? I knew a serial sex slayer who is an outstanding Maritime Historian, a subject of interest to me. Don't hang with that fellow, or read his books, would you? Yes, he is on the streets.

I have written off Gill as a result of his "perverse habits". I would not buy his type any quicker than Hitler's artwork. Sex with children is despicable. Also, "animals" can not give consent.

Giampa

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