Colin Gill (1892 - 1940)


SKU: 926

Signed and dated
Oil on canvas


Height – 76.2cm x Width – 55.9cm


Given by Colin Gill to the artist Stanley Lewis during the 1930’s; Private collection

Colin Gill attended the Slade at a vibrant time; dressed in dramatic, bohemian clothes’ he frequented the
Café Royal, dining in the ground-floor room with his exalted artist friends’ including Augustus John. While never formally associated with the self-styled Slade Neo-Primitives’, Gill shared a close friendship
with Mark Gertler and William Roberts. These artists, nourished by the cumulative effect of a series of
important exhibitions of early Italian painting held in London before the war and Roger Fry’s Post-
Impressionist exhibitions in 1910 and 1912, worked in varying degrees towards a synthesis of
contemporary French and early Renaissance painting in the search for a new visual language through which
modern art could be addressed. 

‘Flora’ is his only known painting from this period, and shows that while he was obliquely related to this process, by resisting the more modernist experiments of his peers, his paintings came to be deemed as archaic in a way the others are not’.

This was one of the colour studies that Gill submitted for his winning entry for the Scholarship to the British School at Rome which he won in 1913. His scholarship was interrupted by the First World War: he served in France 1915-18 and was appointed an Official War Artist. He returned to the British School in 1919, where he produced his masterpiece, Allegro. 

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Colin Gill
1892 - 1940

Decorative and genre painter, born in Bexley Heath, Kent. He was a cousin of the sculptor and printmaker Eric Gill. He studied at the Slade School, and in 1913 won a scholarship to the British School at Rome. His scholarship was interrupted by the First World War: he served in France 1915-18 and was appointed an Official War Artist. From 1922-25 he was a member of staff at the Royal College of Art. He died in South Africa in 1940, while working on a series of murals for the Magistrates Court in Johannesburg. His work is held in the Tate Gallery and the Imperial War Museum.

Gill can lay claim both to being the first painter to win a scholarship to the British School at Rome and to have produced its most iconic image: Allegory, 1921. He also started the fruitful tradition of scholars taking up residence in the small village of Anticoli Corrardo, just south of Rome, during the hot summer months. However, like many of the Rome Scholars who came after him, there is a sense that Gill never fulfilled the remarkable promise of his early work. After returning from Italy his paintings appear to be caught uncomfortably between two desires: on one hand, to continue in the nineteenth-century tradition in which he had been trained, and, on the other, to embrace something more contemporary and avant-garde. He was a keen photographer and also a novelist.