Eric Gill

Mankind

1927–8

Medium
Hoptonwood stone
Dimensions
Object: 2413 x 610 x 457 mm, 1500 kg
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with assistance from Eric Kennington, the Knapping Fund and subscribers 1938
Reference
N05388

Display caption

Gill had no formal art school training, and began his career as a monumental mason and letter-cutter. He produced his first sculptures in 1910, which he carved directly into the stone. Mankind was the central work in his very successful solo show at the Goupil Gallery in London in 1928. It was carved from a large piece of Hoptonwood stone which Gill had had in his possession for some time before deciding to turn it into a personification of womanhood. Considering that Gill is best known for his reliefs and his carvings were generally frontal, this sculpture is unusually three-dimensional.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

N05388 MANKIND 1927–8
 
Not inscribed.
Hoptonwood stone, 95×24×18 (241·5×61×48).
Presented through the generosity of Eric Kennington and a body of subscribers, with the assistance of the Knapping Fund 1938.
Coll: Purchased by Eric Kennington at the Goupil Gallery 1928. Offered at a nominal price to Whipsnade Zoo in 1938, but rejected by the Council of the Zoological Society of London; the subscriptions which had been received were transferred to the Tate Gallery.
Exh: Goupil Gallery, March 1928 (1); British Council, Contemporary British Art, New York World's Fair, 1939 (3).
Lit: G. R. R[eitlinger], ‘London Exhibitions’ in Drawing & Design, IV, 1928, p.115, repr. p.114; Thorp, 1929, pp.9, 18, repr. pls.29 and 30; Kineton Parkes, The Art of Carved Sculpture, 1, 1931, p.21; Letters, 1947, pp.228, 237.
Repr: Stanley Casson, Some Modern Sculptors, 1928, fig.32; exh. cat., Open Air Exhibition of Sculpture, Battersea Park, May–September 1948; Sir John Rothenstein, British Art since 1900, 1962, pl.35.

In a letter to the Reverend Desmond Chute, 25 March 1928, the artist wrote: ‘For the big figure I carved in that big lump of Hoptonwood which I had and never used at Ditchling I'm getting £800 ... Eric Kennington is buying it’ (Letters, 1947, p.228).

In a further letter of 8 October 1928 he describes his purchase of Pigotts, ‘A magnificent place it is, and all for £1750, including 1 acre of orchard and 16 acres grass. (Note by selling the statue “Mankind” I was able to put down £500 & borrow the remainder from Bank.)’ (Letters, 1947, p.237.)

While in Kennington's possession the figure had been exhibited out of doors for many years in a garden belonging to Lady Harris and had lost its original polish. It was repolished in 1957 by Joseph Cribb, who had worked with Gill.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

Explore