Nativity with Midwife; St. Joseph Seated.
Ditchling: c. 1910. Pen-and-ink overpainted in white gouache on stiff card, measuring 3 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches. Original artwork by Eric Gill for Roger Fry's 1910 Christmas card. An artist and influential art critic, Fry reviewed Gill's first sculpture exhibition at the Chenil Gallery in Chelsea, and was one of Gill's supporters during this early stage in his career. The drawing is mounted in a triple-window mat, alongside a proof of the engraving, itself mounted to a larger piece of board, which also includes an inscription from Gill to his wife Ethel (as the couple had not yet converted to Catholicism). The inscription also bears the notation "on return from Brussels Exhibi(tion)." Although Gill traveled extensively to northern France during this period for meetings with Count Kessler, his only recorded trip to Belgium was in 1912, when he traveled to Louvain to visit a Benedictine monastery. According to Fiona MacCarthy, this trip became something of a catalyst for his conversion to Catholicism, as it was here that he fell under the spell of plainchant, which, "when he first heard it, he was so moved he was almost frightened." (p. 113) Physick notes that the block for this engraving was not engraved until 1911; also, Gill used a version of this image for his own Christmas card in 1913, so the timing of the inscription makes sense in this context. A fine and symbolically significant image from Gill's early days as an illustrator. Item #31992