Exhibited: Goupil Gallery, October ‚Äì November, 1927; Barbican Art Gallery, November 1992-February 1993
In December 1925, Eric Gill visited Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancashire to discuss the possibility of carving a large oak altarpiece for the new War Memorial Chapel there. The commissioners chose the subject of the Adoration of the Magi, but instead Gill proposed that of the Crucifixion, which was accepted. On 19th January 1927 the oak panels for the altarpiece were delivered to Gill’s workshop in Capel-y-ffin, in the Black Mountains of Wales, where he worked out the design. A series of photographs taken at Capel-y-ffin by Howard Coster – and now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery ‚Äì document Gill at work during this period. The relief took over two months to carved (from 4th July to 13th September).
In a letter to Desmond Chute (dated 23rd September, 1927), Gill states that the finished reredos was to be shown at the Goupil during Oct. November’, after which point he was to fix up the Rossall panel’ at the School. This was the only substantial wood carving that Eric Gill ever produced.
Two preparatory drawings for the altarpiece were formerly in the collection of David Bowie, and were offered at his posthumous sale at Sotheby’s in 2016. These depict the two thieves bound to their crosses at Christ’s crucifixion, one of whom faces towards Christ while the other turns away.