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Dianne Phillips | Tuesday, February 23, 2010

 I write with regard to the recent article on the Eric Gill exhibition at the Hesburgh Library. I have noticed that both The Observer article and a recent piece in ND Works make no explicit mention of Eric Gill’s troubling sexual behavior, in particular, the sexual abuse of his family members, that has been well-documented by his biographer, Fiona McCarthy. I have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Special Collections exhibition but the irony of The Observer’s front page coverage of this display juxtaposed to the major article on Sexual Assault Awareness Week is rather bitter. Eric Gill was a fine artist and a deeply religious man but the way in which he attempted to integrate his art, political convictions, sexuality and family life does not offer a model worthy of emulation. We may admire his artistic talent and his religious and social convictions, but it is important to grapple also with the fact of his unbridled and exploitative sexual behavior. Acknowledging Gill’s hypersexuality will alter our perception of much of his imagery in a profound way.

Dianne Phillips
advisor to graduate students
Institute for Scholarship in Liberal Arts
Feb. 22