After many delays I’m now getting very excited at the publication of my new book on Illumination. I’ve updated a lot of the techniques from my previous British Library book ‘Companion to Calligraphy, Illumination and Heraldry’ (can’t believe how long ago that was published!), and it links very well with my DVD on Illumination. I think that we’re on the home straight now, and could even get copies in time for Christmas! Fingers crossed.
This is the cover (left side is the back, then the spine, and then the right is the front cover):
The little angel on the back is a copy from the Sforza Hours. It’s one of my favourite manuscripts with paintings both by Birago, done when the book was in Italy commissioned originally by Bona Sforza, Duchess of Milan, and then by Horenbout, in the Netherlands, when the stolen images were replaced by this great Dutch artist (the story of the book is really fascinating.)
My favourites are those by Birago as he paints saints and angels with the most fabulous cheek bones and really curly hair. They almost look as if they have put their fingers in electric sockets such are the curls, and despite being angels they don’t seem to have known about frizz-eaze!
My angel is a copy of one painted by Birago and is of a chorister, but I popped a quill into his left hand to make him into a scribe (or an illuminator) ready to write or lay gesso into a book.
Most people have heard of Eric Gill, the great letter cutter of the first part of the last century. He carved the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral and the Ariel figure for the BBC as well as many inscriptions. Others may know of his type designs including Gill Sans and Joanna, the latter named after his daughter.
Fewer people know of his brother, MacDonald Gill, known as Max. He created very lively and colourful maps, posters, logos and typefaces too.
This is one of his maps – London Wonderground.
There is to be a new exhibition on his work opening next month. Many of the exhibits were in the loft of the cottage where he lived with his second wife, Priscilla Johnston, daughter of the Master Calligrapher Edward Johnston. Her nephew, Andrew, inherited the cottage and found the originals tucked in all sorts of hidden places – not only in the loft but also under tables and hidden in wardrobes.
A rather sweet exhibit will be his shoes, where the name ‘Eric’ as well as ‘Vernon’ (another brother) have been crossed out and ‘Max’ scratched on in replacement. I suppose with 13 children in the family hand-me-downs are inevitable.
The exhibition is at the Pitzhanger Manor House, Ealing, a Grade I listed building designed by John Soane in 1800, and looks worth a visit on its own!
Out of the Shadows: MacDonald Gill will open at PM Gallery & House on 20 September until 2 November 2013. For visitor information and opening times, see http://www.ealing.gov.uk/pmgalleryandhouse. To see more of Gill’s work, visit http://www.macdonaldgill.com.