Private Held

Gill, Colin

(1892 – 1940)

Allegory, 1920-1921

Signed and dated

Oil on canvas 

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
The British School at Rome, 1989

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.341.

Exhibited: The Carnegie Institute Pittsburgh; Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1925; The Last Romantics, Barbican, 1989 (462); Tate Britain, 1995, as part of New Displays; ‘For Real: British Realists from the 20s and 30s’, Museum MORE, Gorssel (September 15th, 2019 ‚Äì January 5th, 2020).

Literature: Studio 84, 1922, p. 828;  The Last Romantics, Barbican, 1989  
British and Italian Art, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, 1996, cat. 14; 

Patrick Elliot & Sacha Llewellyn; True to Life, British Realist Painting in the 1920s & 1930s, July 2017, ISBN 978 1 911054 05 4, Cat. 41, page 86 and page 87.

Colin Gill was the first artist to win a scholarship to The British
School at Rome and Allegory was the major painting produced during his
stay at the school. Allegory includes portraits of Gills fellow Rome
Scholars, the engraver Job Nixon, the Sculptor Alfred Hardiman (and his
wife), and  the Rome Scholar in Painting, J M Benson, (and his future wife Maria Rosa Toppi) and Winifred Knights. Knights – the
first woman to win a scholarship to the British School at Rome.  Knights
arrived just as Gill was completing the canvas, at the end of 1920. 
The two fell in love (love Sonnets by Gill include the line ‘ You hold
my heart like a bird in a cage’ ) and Gill painted Knights striking
portrait over a Calvary.

Colin Gill and Winifred Knights at The British School at Rome

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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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