Eric Gill

Inscription ‘Ex Divina Pulchritudine’

1926

On display at Tate Britain

Artist
Eric Gill 1882–1940
Medium
Hoptonwood stone
Dimensions
Object: 306 x 457 x 38 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983
Reference
T03738

Display caption

‘The beauty of God is the cause of the being of all that is.’ This favourite quotation of Gill’s is from St Thomas Aquinas’s commentary on the ‘Divine Names’, a mystical classical work by Dionysius the Areopagite. Gill founded a Roman Catholic community based on the revival of traditional crafts and the idea of medieval guilds. At the same time, he designed one of the most famous modern typefaces – Gill Sans.

Gallery label, September 2016

Catalogue entry

T03738 Inscription ‘Ex Divina Pulchritudine’ 1926

Hoptonwood stone, the letters painted 12 × 18 × 1 1/2 (306 × 457 × 38)
Inscribed ‘EX DIVINA /PVLCHRITVDINE/ESSE OMNIVM/DERIVATVR’ and ‘EG’ b.r. edge
Transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum 1983
Prov: Commissioned from the artist by the Department of Circulation, Victoria and Albert Museum 1926 (Circ. 959–1926)
Exh: Travelling exhibitions of the Department of Circulation, Victoria and Albert Museum; Eric Gill, Dartington Cider Press Centre, Dartington, July–August 1979, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, October–November 1979; Strict Delight, the Life and Work of Eric Gill, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, March–April 1980 (L. 18)
Lit: Evan R. Gill, The Inscriptional Work of Eric Gill an Inventory, 1964, 479 A. Also repr: Coloured reproduction published by the Victoria and Albert Museum

This text was chosen by Gill in response to a commission from Eric MacLagan, the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who wrote to him asking for an ‘inscription for Department of Circulation ... on hoptonwood or other stone ... sufficiently light in weight to be transportable ... both Roman capitals and italics’ (26 April 1926). Gill made two tablets on August 18–21 (recorded in his diaries, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles), this one and one painted on wood which still belongs to the Victoria and Albert Museum (Evan R. Gill, op.cit., 479). He wrote to MacLagan ‘As to the text, I reckon I have given the art students something to chew and, that there may be no doubt of the meaning, I have done it in Latin, French and English’ (21 August 1926).

The Latin is from St Thomas Aquinas's commentary on Dionysius, De Divinis Nominibus, (ch. 4, lect. 5). It is translated into French and English in the painted version, and the latter text is ‘The Beauty of God is the cause of the being of all that is’.

The top line is painted red, the second black, the third blue and the last black.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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