Eric Gill - Iconographer

October 11 - December 20, 2009

Thacher Gallery at USF

November 5 - December 20, 2009

Donohue Rare Book Room, 3rd Floor Gleeson Library

Eric Gill (1882-1940), best known for his typography and the widely-used typeface that bears his name, was a prolific English artist and writer whose daring aesthetic combined sensuality and spirituality with a keen sense of the line. His artistic works range from postage stamps to stone monuments. Drawn from USF’s Albert Sperisen Collection, the over 100 works in Eric Gill – Iconographer primarily represent wood engravings completed between 1910 to 1940. These were commonly completed on boxwood using carving tools and were printed in limited editions using letterpress technology. Original engraving blocks and publications are also on display. 

The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.
—from Eric Gill, Christianity and the Machine Age, 1940

The exhibition toured to Loyola University Museum of Art (Chicago) and the Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles).

About Eric Gill

At twenty-one, Gill gave up formal studies in sacred architecture to pursue calligraphy, stone cutting and masonry, crafts he utilized throughout his entire career. Identified on his own tombstone as a “stone carver,” he was one of England’s most sought after headstone carvers, and received commissions for important stonework and sculptures at Westminster Cathedral, the BBC Headquarters, and the League of Nations building in Geneva. Between 1925 and 1931, Gill designed his best-known typefaces: Perpetua, Gill Sans, and Joanna, named for his daughter. He was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry, the highest British honor for designers. During his lifetime, Gill wrote and published numerous books on art, religion and society, including An Essay on Typography in 1931 and Autobiography in 1940. 

His most celebrated artworks include sculptures and refined wood engravings as well as drawings. His subjects range from fashion to literature, the erotic to the religious. His iconographic designs and commitment to craftsmanship demonstrate a strong influence from the English Arts and Crafts movement (1880-1910) and artists such as textile designer William Morris. Along with two peers, he founded the Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic in order to unite artisans in a religious association. A controversial and conflicted figure, Gill was deeply religious and influenced by medieval Catholicism, yet crossed every imaginable boundary in his private life. An advocate of free love and Fabian socialism while a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, Gill had utopian dreams of recreating medieval guilds of artists, yet often worked in self-imposed isolation. The deeply spiritual and overtly sexual are regularly intermixed throughout his work. The engravings in Eric Gill – Iconographer embody these tensions while revealing the elegant boldness that defines his aesthetic.

Eric Gill – Iconographer and The Albert Sperisen Collection

Acquired by the University in 1971 and housed in the Donohue Rare Book Room, The Albert Sperisen Collection focuses on Gill’s wood engravings. These works include early bookplates, family portraits, erotica, religious scenes, and illustrations for fine press editions of The Four Gospels, The Canterbury Tales and Troilus Crseyde, among others. 

Co-curated by Thomas Lucas, SJ, Gallery Director, and Stuart McKee, Design Professor, Eric Gill – Iconographer presents 100 of the most representative engravings in the collection as well as original woodblocks and Gill publications. The exhibition’s design reflects Gill’s influences, and was created by USF design students. The Sperisen Collection, only one of the many collections held by the Donohue Rare Book Room, includes hundreds of Gill prints. Beginning November 5, the exhibition will extend into the Donohue Rare Book Room which houses an Albion press previously owned by the firm of Hague & Gill.


Wednesday, November 11, 4-7 p.m. 
Join USF’s Printmaking class for a hands-on demonstration on the Albion press previously owned by the firm of Gill & Hague. Participants will have an opportunity to print their own commemorative Gill broadside. A reception will take place in the Thacher Gallery. 

Tuesday, November 17, 10 a.m.
Tuesday, November 24, 3 p.m.
Thursday, December 3, 5:30 p.m.
Join John Hawk, Rare Book Librarian, for a close-up look at the collection.


This exhibition was produced in a collaboration with the Thacher Gallery, Donohue Rare Book Room, Gleeson Library | Geschke Center and the Art + Architecture Department with generous sponsorship from the Jesuit Society and Gleeson Library Associates. 

With the guidance of Gallery Director Fr. Tom Lucas SJ and their professor, students in Stuart McKee’s Exhibition Design (Spring 2009) curated and designed the exhibition. Students in Susan Wolsborn’s Printmaking I (Fall 2009) facilitated the broadside event and students in Wendy Norris’s Art and Business (Fall 2009) promoted the exhibition and events.

Installation Images