The BSR has collected photographs of some of the major paintings Colin Gill (1892-1940) made while he was at the institution. The black and white photographs reveal as much about the process of documenting artwork, and its limitations, as it does about the art itself. There is also a substantial record of correspondence between Colin Gill and Sir Evelyn Shaw, the first Honorary Secretary General of the British School at Rome.

These letters reveal Gill’s excitement at being selected as the first Rome Scholar in Decorative Painting.

  • Colin Gill' personal file, Letter to E Shaw, p.1 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)
  • Colin Gill' personal file, Letter to E Shaw, p.2 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)
  • Colin Gill' personal file, Letter to E Shaw, p.3 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)

Other letters detail the suspension of his studies during World War One.

  • Colin Gill' personal file, Report, 1916 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)
  • Colin Gill' personal file, Certificate, 1916 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)

He even visited later in 1937, returning as an “old Scholar”.

Colin Gill Collection, Letter from Gill to Shaw 1937, BSR Fine Arts ArchiveColin Gill Collection, Letter from Gill to Shaw 1937, BSR Fine Arts Archive
Colin Gill’s personal file, Letter from Gill to E Shaw, 1937 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)

The BSR kept several images as records of Gill’s work. This photograph shows several soldiers carrying steel beams and moving sandbags. This formed part of Gill’s post-War engagement as a War Artist. It is an earlier version of his work Canadian Observation Post (Canadian War Museum, 1920), which showed the figures in similar poses. The final version went on to depict representations of shell shock, and places soldiers amongst the ruins of the building they had occupied.

Colin Gill Collection, Photo of Canadian Observation Post (1920), BSR Fine Arts Archive
Colin Gill Collection, photo of Canadian Observation Post, 1920 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)

This is an image of Italian figures in a rural setting. It is a rough work, most likely done at Anticoli Corrado, where Gill stayed for much of his time as a Rome Scholar.

Colin Gill Collection, photo of Italians (c.1921), BSR Fine Arts Archive
Colin Gill Collection, photo of Italians, c.1921 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)

This is a photograph of one of Gill’s more famous pieces, Heavy Artillery (Imperial War Museum, 1919). This painting was intended for the Hall of Remembrance. It depicts teams of soldiers working artillery guns, with others sitting close by. The horrors of war are juxtaposed against bright colours, vivid contrasts which, because of the technology of the time, have not been captured in the black and white photograph.

Colin Gill Collection, Photo of Heavy Artillery (1919), BSR Fine Arts Archive
Colin Gill Collection, photo of Heavy Artillery, 1919 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)

Finally, this is an image of Gill’s most enduring piece which he created whilst at the BSR, Allegro (1921); (the work is also referred to at several different points in time as Allegory and Allegria). Several of his fellow Rome Scholars are depicted in this painting, including Alfred Hardiman and his wife, and, on the left holding the birdcage, Winifred Knights. The metaphor represents Gill’s infatuation with Knights, whom he once commented held his heart “like a bird in a cage”.

Colin Gill Collection, Photo of Allegro (1921), BSR Fine Arts Archive
Colin Gill Collection, photo of Allegory, 1921 (BSR Fine Arts Archive)

Where would you like to go next? Who would you like to meet?

Meet Colin Gill (1892-1940)
Learn more about Mural Painting at the BSR, 1913-1930
Learn more about Photography at the BSR, 1913-1930

Please click on an image to enlarge it.

For a full bibliography and further reading, see here.