Gill, Colin

(1892 – 1940)

Self-portrait, 1910

SKU: 5664

Signed and dated

Pencil, coloured crayon and watercolour

Size:
Height: 35.6cm
Width: 21cm

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
The Artist’s Studio

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.254.

Colin Gill attended the Slade at a vibrant time; dressed in dramatic, bohemian clothes’ he frequented the Café Royal, dining in the ground-floor room with his exalted artist friends’ including Augustus John. While never formally associated with the self-styled Slade Neo-Primitives’, Gill shared a close friendship with Mark Gertler and William Roberts. These artists, nourished by the cumulative effect of a series of important exhibitions of early Italian painting held in London before the war and Roger Fry’s Post- Impressionist exhibitions in 1910 and 1912, worked in varying degrees towards a synthesis of contemporary French and early Renaissance painting in the search for a new visual language through which modern art could be addressed. 

In 1913 Gill became the first recipient of the Rome Scholarship in Decorative Painting to the British School in Rome. His scholarship was interrupted by the First World War. Gill joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and served with them on the Western Front as a second lieutenant with the 17th Heavy Battery until 1916, when he was seconded to the Royal Engineers to work as a front-line camouflage officer. He was invalided back to England, with gas poisoning in March 1918, and spent several months recovering at the Hospital for Officers on the Isle of Wight In May 1918, he offered his services as a war artist – resulting in a highly distinctive cycle of oils, most of which are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Gill returned to The British School at Rome in 1919 to complete his Scholarship.  He departed in May 1921, having completed his masterpiece Allegory. 


This  includes a celebrated portrait of Winifred Knights, who  as the first woman to win the coveted Scholarship in Decorative Painting, and in effect replacing Gill, arrived in November 1920. 
 

Colin Gill and Winifred Knights at The British School at Rome, 1921

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THE ARTIST

Gill, Colin

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.

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