Exhibition Archive

The Sculpted Nude: Aristide Maillol and Eric Gill

1 December 2003 - 29 February 2004

Aristide Maillol, Femme se déshabillant (Woman undressing) c.1920 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2003 Aristide Maillol, Femme se déshabillant (Woman undressing) c.1920 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2003

With his simplified treatment of form and solid, static figures, Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) developed a new type of sculpture, rejecting the dramatic style and animated surfaces of the renowned Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). For Eric Gill (1882-1940), letter-cutter, wood engraver and sculptor, Maillol was the greatest man in the world. Yet given the opportunity to work as his assistant by their mutual patron, German diplomat and collector, Count Harry Kessler (1868-1937), he rejected the offer. For an artist strongly influenced by medieval and Indian relief sculpture, whose inspiration came through direct cutting in stone, Gill felt he would learn nothing from the conventional practice followed by Maillol of modelling from wax or clay.

A central theme of both artists work was the female nude. Whether taken from life or from the imagination, the sensual drawings and prints displayed here are all handled with craftsmanlike precision. Maillols smooth, rounded contours and sensitive shading, and Gills flatter, more hard-edged treatment, echo their sculptural techniques as modeller and carver respectively.