Exhibitions: Sacred and Profane. Drawings from the 1920s and 1930s by Edward Burra, Cecil Collins, Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, James Hyman Fine Art, London, 5 December 2003 - 24 January 2004.
This important early study relates to Job 361 in Gill's Ledgers which was a garden statue commissioned by Roger Fry for his magnificent gardens at his house, Durbins, outside Guildford. According to Dr. Judith Collins' catalogue raisonné of Eric Gill's sculpture, Gill gave the statue its title, Mulier, translated from Latin to mean Mother and B.V.M to denote the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, the statue's pose, with the left hand over the Virgin's genitals and the right hand around her right breast does not readily suggest the subject matter, although these gestures may have been intended to symbolise her fecundity and nurturing qualities. Roger Fry's concern for 'a good many people's sensibilities' gave rise to his uneasiness with the explicit nature of the statue according to a letter to Gill on 23 June 1911. Nonetheless he recognised the calibre of Gill's achievement: "You know that this has nothing to do with the question of the statue itself which I think has splendid qualities and which I should like more and more. I think the hands are perhaps the finest thing you have yet done. It has to do with the fixed conditions which I told you of - different tastes and feelings to one's own, totally unartistic people coming to the house for my sister's philanthropic meetings and I can't have a largely provocative question mark stuck up for them on the way." (quoted in Dr. Judith Collins, Eric Gill. The Sculpture, London, 1998, p.72-3) consequently rejected the finished statue, which featured at Gill's solo show at the Goupil Gallery in London in January 1914.