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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Ernest George Gillick (1874–1951)

Sculptor and medallist. He first attended Nottingham School of Art (NSA), the two gold medals he was awarded there helping to secure, in 1896, a scholarship to the Royal College of Art where he studied under Edouard Lantéri and gained, in 1902, a travelling scholarship to Italy. In 1905 he married the sculptor and medallist Mary Gaskell Tutin (1881–1965) whom he had met at NSA. In 1906, Gillick was nominated by Lantéri for membership of the Society (later Royal Society) of British Sculptors (RBS); Gillick resigned, for reasons that are unclear, in 1914. In 1916, he became a member of the Art Workers’ Guild (committee member 1919–21 and 1933–36; Master 1935). He showed regularly at the Royal Academy (RA) summer exhibitions from 1908, but although he was nominated for membership of the RA from as early as 1912, it was not until April 1935 that he was elected an Associate Royal Academician. His first important public commission was for two high relief figures, Richard Cosway and J.M.W. Turner, 1905, on Aston Webb’s new Cromwell Road frontage to the Victoria and Albert Museum building. More followed: memorials to Ouida (the novelist Marie Louise Ramé), 1909, Bury St Edmunds; Sir Francis Sharp Powell, 1910, Wigan; and Dr James Adam, 1911, Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 1913, Gillick was one of ten sculptors selected by the RBS to provide statues for Cardiff City Hall, his contribution being Harri Tewdwr (Henry VII) at Bosworth Field. In 1918, he executed the pair of bronze caryatids representing Britannia and Asia for the P&O Line offices, 14–16 Cockspur Street, London. In the early 1920s he carved the massive couchant lions and other sculptural details for the architect John James Burnet’s Cenotaph (unveiled May 1924) in George Square, Glasgow. His memorial to Sir George Frampton, a gently humorous piece comprising a giant toddler gazing on a miniature version of Frampton’s Peter Pan standing on the palm of his extended hand, was unveiled in March 1931 in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. Following its inclusion in the 1935 RA summer exhibition his plaster model for Ex Tenebris Lux was awarded the RBS medal for that year’s best work shown in London by a British sculptor; three years later he rejoined the RBS as a Fellow. Ex Tenebris Lux had been intended for the Birmingham Hospitals Centre but Gillick, unhappy with its proposed siting, refused to release the sculpture, ultimately selling it to the New Zealand arts benefactor Robert McDougall who presented it to Christchurch Art Gallery. A resident of Chelsea for most of his life, on September 1951, Gillick collapsed while dining in a restaurant in Sloane Square and died en route to hospital.

Bibliography: D. Buckman, Artists in Britain since 1945 (2 vols: A–L, M–Z), Bristol, 2006; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, p. 168; City of Cardiff, Illustrated Catalogue of Welsh Historical Sculpture presented to the City of Cardiff by the Rt Hon Lord Rhondda of Llanwern, M.A., on the 27th October 1916, pp. 39–44, pl. 8; R. Cocke, Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk, Liverpool, 2013, pp. 203–04; Daily Mail, 26 September 1951, p. 3 (obit.); R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Glasgow, Liverpool, 2002, pp. 147–49; Mapping Sculpture; M. Quinlan, Sculptors and Architects of Remembrance, Sandy, Bedfordshire, 2007, p. 81; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, p. 60; The Times: (i) 12 March 1931, p. 9; (ii) 8 August 1935, p. 9; (iii) 27 September 1951, p. 6 (obit.); P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 289, 301, 302; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 419–21.

Terry Cavanagh January 2024