Eric Gill: Our Response
Reviewed September 2023
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft presents the work of the many artists who made Ditchling a creative hub in the 20th Century, including sculptor and printer Eric Gill (b. 1882, d. 1940).
Gill’s abuse of his daughters came to public notice in Fiona McCarthy’s 1989 biography.
Statement from the Director and Trustees of Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft
For many years the staff, trustees and our colleagues outside the institution have been engaged in a difficult and at times emotional process of deciding how we should present and interpret the work of Eric Gill – an artist central to our narrative and whose importance to art and design history in the UK and around the world is impossible to ignore, but whose diaries record that he sexually abused his daughters as well as participating in other disturbing sexual acts.
The trustees operate within these two positions: we absolutely condemn Eric Gill’s abuse of his daughters with no attempt to hide, excuse, normalise or minimise, yet we also have a duty to protect, display and interpret the art work we hold in our collections.
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft exists to tell the story of the artistic and craft community of the village, the lives of the individuals, how they worked, were educated and interacted. We therefore do not, and cannot, see their work in isolation from their biography.
This work is an ongoing process that was confronted head on with the museum’s 2017 exhibition Eric Gill: The Body. The exhibition specifically addressed this subject and posed the question to visitors – ‘Is it possible to enjoy Gill’s art when we know about his abuse?’
The board of trustees and museum staff continue to be engaged with these issues and to work on how we can best interpret and communicate them to the public, sensitively and without sensationalism.
Resources and Support
National Helpline: 0800 1111
Childline is a counselling service for children and young people up to their 19th birthday in the United Kingdom provided by the NSPCC.
National organisation offering support and counselling for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. See website for local groups or contact directory enquiries.
RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre)
National Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30 & 7-9.30)
National helpline for survivors of rape and childhood sexual abuse, their families and friends. Provides emotional and practical support.
Refuge has grown to become the largest provider of emergency accommodation and emotional and practical support to women and children in the country.
Survivor’s Network, Sussex
Helpline: 01273 720 110 (Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm)
Support for survivors of sexual violence and abuse in Sussex.
Survivors UK – Male Rape and Sexual Abuse Support
National Helpline: 0845 122 1201
Support for male rape and sexual abuse survivors.
Supportline: 0845 30 30 900
Confidential, free and available to anyone who’s been raped or sexually assaulted, now or in the past
Women’s Aid Federation
National Domestic Violence Helpline (24hrs): 08457 023 047
Women’s Aid is the national domestic violence charity that helps up to 250,000 women and children every year.