Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)

Portrait of Winifred Knights, 1921

SKU: 7787
Signed and inscribed ‘Jane’
Pencil on paper

Height – 43.8cm
Width – 32.4cm


The Artist’s family, thence by descent
Portrait of an Artist, Liss Llewellyn, 2021, Paul Liss p 177 Winifred Knights, Lund Humphries, 2016, Sacha Llewellyn, p. 101 British Murals and Decorative Paintings, Sansom & Co. 2013, Sacha Llewellyn p. 153

Colin Gill and Winifred Knights at The British School at Rome

Gill was the first Rome Scholar in Decorative Painting.  He completed his stay at the British School in Rome in 1921 – shortly before Knights, the first woman to win the scholarship, arrived as his successor at the end of 1920.  They fell in love.

Each produced a pencil portrait of the other:

“I couldn’t get [the newspaper] away from Gill; he had his nose glued to it for a whole morning, so I drew him – not at all a bad drawing” 
Letter to Mother, 19th May 1921

Gill included Knights in the same pose as his portrait of her in his British School at Rome masterpiece Allegory, (completed in May 1921):

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Colin Gill
1892 - 1940

Decorative and genre painter, born in Bexley Heath, Kent. He was a cousin of the sculptor and printmaker Eric Gill. He studied at the Slade School, and in 1913 won a scholarship to the British School at Rome. His scholarship was interrupted by the First World War: he served in France 1915-18 and was appointed an Official War Artist. From 1922-25 he was a member of staff at the Royal College of Art. He died in South Africa in 1940, while working on a series of murals for the Magistrates Court in Johannesburg. His work is held in the Tate Gallery and the Imperial War Museum.

Gill can lay claim both to being the first painter to win a scholarship to the British School at Rome and to have produced its most iconic image: Allegory, 1921. He also started the fruitful tradition of scholars taking up residence in the small village of Anticoli Corrardo, just south of Rome, during the hot summer months. However, like many of the Rome Scholars who came after him, there is a sense that Gill never fulfilled the remarkable promise of his early work. After returning from Italy his paintings appear to be caught uncomfortably between two desires: on one hand, to continue in the nineteenth-century tradition in which he had been trained, and, on the other, to embrace something more contemporary and avant-garde. He was a keen photographer and also a novelist.


Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)
Study for Heavy Artillery; Portrait of a Forward Observing Officer
Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)
Portrait of Winifred Knights, 1921
Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)
Self-portrait, 1910
Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)
Self Portrait (?) 1913
Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)
Flora, 1912
Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)
Allegory, 1920-1921
Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)
Study for L’Allegro, circa 1920