David Kindersley’s apprenticeship to Eric Gill
When Kindersley began his apprenticeship in 1934, Eric Gill had become a famous and controversial sculptor. Prospero and Ariel were by then in place over the portals of the BBC in Langham Place.
In the Gill workshops at Pigotts near High Wycombe the cutting of inscriptions remained the staple of activity and was indeed the primary source of income. Amongst the works completed during this period were the memorials to the writers John Galsworthy and A.R. Orage, the artists William Orpen and Christopher Wood, the well-known portrait panel for Lord Rutherford in Cambridge, and the memorial to the Admiral of the Fleet Charles Edward Madden in St. Paul's Cathedral.
As well as the excitement and vitality of the busy workshop Kindersley the apprentice absorbed the protocols of death and burial. This was to stand him in good stead in his own practice. It was Kindersley himself who cut the inscription ET ALIAS OVES on the Hopton Wood stone demonstration panel designed by Gill and exhibited at the French Gallery in London in November 1936.
Gill’s ‘views on almost any subject were always reasoned if not reasonable, and they influenced me for life’
Kindersley's apprenticeship with Gill reversed completely his earlier months of working with the traditional ‘trade’ carvers, the brothers Udini in Fulham. Where the Udinis used the pointing machine to enlarge and convert into stone the plaster models made by the many Royal Academicians who used their services, Gill denounced such practices as pusillanimous and ungodly.
In his generation Eric Gill was the prime exponent of direct carving. Kindersley took on Gill’s own delight in physicality: the fluent skills of drawing, the rhythmic disciplines of the hammer and the chisel. Kindersley remained with Gill for two years, setting up on his own in 1936 as a letter cutter and, for a while, a sculptor.
He was always to acknowledge the impact Gill had had on him, later recollecting that Gill’s ‘views on almost any subject were always reasoned if not reasonable, and they influenced me for life’