MacDonald Gill Spring / Summer Newsletter 2017


New Exhibition!

MacDonald Gill: Charting his Age opened on April 2nd at Kelmarsh Hall, a fabulous Grade 1 listed country house near Market Harborough in Northamptonshire.  The exhibition, which runs until 31st October,  is showing a total of 22 wall-hung works as well as four display cases.  It heralds the first public appearance of a bird's eye perspective of Baylin's Farm - the country house of furniture designer and shop owner Ambrose Heal - which hangs alongside its artwork - here's a detail to whet your appetite.

Also on display are several London Underground posters including the enchanting map illustrating J.M. Barrie's 1906 children's story Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.  This was based on his 1902 novel for adults, 'The Little White Bird' which features the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up in the time before his now better-known adventures with Wendy in Neverland.  The character of Peter Pan was then at least as famous as Harry Potter is today and just as children now go in search of Potter film locations, countless families in Max's time would have been inspired to travel by bus or tube to Kensington Gardens,  not only to see Sir George Frampton's statue of Peter Pan but also to seek out the place where 'Peter played at his game of boats' or where he 'found two babes ... fallen from their perambulator'.  The map may well have been a joint publicity venture between London Underground and the book's publisher as a cartouche displays the words: '... but you really must read the whole story of "PETER PAN IN KENSINGTON GARDENS".  Mr Hodder & Stoughton would be frightfully pleased to give - no sell - you a copy!'

Max and the First World War
A century ago, during the First World War, Max was living in Tonerspuddle in Dorset, where he was supervising the construction of Ernest Debenham's model farm and village at Briantspuddle. Max was granted exemption from military service, primarily perhaps because he was engaged in a key agricultural project considered essential for the war effort; his longstanding nasal problems - the result of a boyhood cycling accident - were also a factor, entailing yet another operation in around 1917, after which he was passed fit to serve in an office-based job.   Until completion of his Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral in the summer of 1918, older brother Eric was also exempted; after this he was conscripted, spending the remaining weeks of the war at an RAF base in Blandford.  Four of the other five Gill brothers experienced the horrors of the Western Front;  Kenneth, who had won the Military Cross for bravery, was the only one to lose his life, tragically killed in a flying accident a few days before the Armistice.  His headstone is carved with the badge and lettering designed by Max for the Imperial War Graves Commission.  This remarkable institution, founded by Sir Fabian Ware, was established a hundred years ago this May. 

Inevitably, Max also lost several friends in the war. Closest amongst these was Francis Grissell, commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, who had been his assistant on numerous commissions, including the early stages of the Lindisfarne Castle map.  His brother-in-law Ernest Laughton, an old Bognor friend who had shared his lodgings at Lincoln's Inn was also killed on the Somme; he and his wife Gladys had posed for Eric's controversial sculpture 'Ecstasy'.  

In April 1917 Max worked on the English and French inscriptions for plaques designed by Lutyens commemorating Major William 'Billy' La Touche  Congreve V.C., D.S.O., M.C., whose death by sniper bullet on the Somme in August 1916 came as a devastating blow to Edward Hudson, the owner of Country Life, who had intended to leave Lindisfarne Castle, his summer home, to the young man.  The English plaque is in the church of St John the Baptist, Stowe-at-Chartley in Staffordshire, while the French plaque can be found in the church at Corbie near the military cemetery where Major Congreve is buried. Photos can be found at:          

Amongst the documents and records of Max's inscriptions, I've come across this photo of a commemorative plaque to Bombardier John MacDonald.  Despite my best efforts I haven't discovered where it is, presumably in a church somewhere in England.  If anyone knows its location, do get in touch.

Recent Auction
Six of Max's maps went under the hammer this week fetching rather eye-watering sums!  There were three Empire Marketing Board maps: England & Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, as well as the three GPO maps: Mail Steamship Services, Radio-Telephones,  and Wireless Stations.  You can find details and photos on the Christie's website - lots 400-405.

I hope you've enjoyed this newsletter, but if you don't want to receive any more, just let me know.

Best wishes,

Caroline Walker


Previous Newsletters

Winter 2017
Autumn 2016
Summer 2016
Spring 2016
Autumn 2015
Summer 2015
Winter/Spring 2015
Autumn 2014
Summer 2014
Spring 2014
Winter 2013/2014
Summer 2013
Spring 2013