Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Bookplate: S. Anthony - Eric Gill

Eric Gill, Bookplate: S. Anthony, 1926, intaglio print on paper, 121 x 86 mm, Tate.

 Bookplate from the most problematic artist in modern British art history until Graham Ovenden came along and knocked it out of the park.  Leaving aside Gill's awful personal life (why did I allude to it at all? I'm cheap), this is an image of perfect balance.  St. Anthony spreads his legs to perch on a seat, which sits between vegetation either side, while he reads a book, inevitably revealing two pages.  The way the putto clings on to the sphere containing St. Anthony, as if it would float away if he didn't, while the female angel throws herself on top to weigh it down, is witty.  Anthony himself looks like he could drift out of the bubble at any time, presumably as his study has taken him out of the physical realm, while the book he is reading appears to be held down by his hands.  It is a picture about light and weight, spirit and form, Heaven and Earth.

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