Memorial tablet commemorating Museum personnel killed in the First World War
Gill, Arthur Eric Rowton
Height: 152.5 cm, Width: 66 cm
Memorial tablet, Hopton Wood stone, to commemorate Museum personnel killed in the First World War, by Eric Gill, England, 1919-20
The memorial tablet has a lunette-shaped top, containing a laurel wreath in low relief. Below is an inscription in incised black and red lettering.
The Museum commissioned this tablet from the artist Eric Gill in 1919. There is no record of its exact cost. Gill's estimated costing was a nominal sum of between £10 and £20, paid from donations by members of Museum staff. The memorial was to have been acquired using the Museum's purchase grant, and to have been assigned to the Department of Architecture and Sculpture (later the Sculpture Department). As the total sum was raised through subscription, the purchase grant was not used. Gill supplied two corbhels (or decorative brackets) for the tablet. Each of them has a simple insignia symbolising the V&A monogram; the corbel to the right is incised 'E' and 'G', for Eric Gill, while the one to the left has (in smaller lettering) the initials 'J' and 'C', for (Herbert) Joseph Cribb (died 1967), Gill's first apprentice, who worked with him from June 1906 until 1934. According to D. Peace, in his Eric Gill: The Inscriptions, a Descriptive Catalogue, this is one of only three signed examples of Gill's work: it is difficult to attribute lettering solely to Gill after 1906, when Cribb joined his workshop. This piece is therefore of particular interest, as it is signed by both artists. On the question of a memorial R.P. Bedford, at that time Assistant Keeper of the Department of Architecture and Sculpture, noted in August 1919: 'Would it not be possible ... to obtain the services of Eric Gill to carve us a simple tablet in memory of our men, which would be distinguished by its beautiful lettering, and, while being a worthy memorial, would at the same time take its place among the great works in our galleries?' There was seen to be an element of urgency, as it was thought that Gill was intending to enter a religious order, which would have meant that the opportunity of obtaining an example of his work, and of 'showing the public the practical interest we take in good memorials' would be missed. The memorial was temporarily displayed in the Main Entrance in April 1920, and later permanently built in there. Gill also produced a First World War memorial for the British Museum, installed in 1921. Gerald Siordet, one of those listed on this memorial, had worked in the V&A before 1914 as a temporary cataloguer on the Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory, and is mentioned by Eric Maclagan (former Keeper of the Department of Architecture and Sculpture and later Director of the Museum) in the prefatory note to the catalogue. 'On the outbreak of the War [Siordet] enlisted at once as as volunteer and served in the Rifle Brigade, first in France and later in Mesopotamia, where he was killed early in 1917.' Gerald Siordet was a poet and artist. He had links with a number of well known artists working before and during the first World War, and several completed portraits of him. He also knew Eric Gill and had helped obtain the commission to produce the 'Stations of the Cross' for Westminster Cathedral for him. Gill (1882-1940) was an English sculptor, letter-cutter, typographic designer, calligrapher, engraver, writer and teacher.
Commissioned by the Museum from the artist in 1919. The exact cost of this memorial is not recorded. Gill's estimated costing was a nominal sum of between £10 and £20, paid from donations by members of Museum staff. The memorial was to have been acquired using the Museum's purchase grant, and to have been assigned to the Department of Architecture and Sculpture, later the Sculpture Department. As the total sum was raised through subscription, the purchase grant was not used, and the intention of assigning it to Architecture and Sculpture either not carried out or forgotten.
Purchased by staff subsciption from Eric Gill (exact price not recorded, but between £10 and £20).
Location: Grand Entrance, room 49, case EWAL