Eric Gill on holy work

A synthesis of the thought of Eric Gill (1882-1940), sculptor, stone mason, wooden engraver:

  1. Of holiness. To work is to worship.
  2. Of the nature of man. Every man is a kind of artist (=craftsman)
  3. Of the nature of work. “Art is skill in making; the good work is the skilful work.”

Excerpts from A Holy Tradition of Working

Of holiness

To labor is to pray.

Holiness means wholeness…. The holy man is the complete man.

Of man

‘The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.’

At the beginning of the fifteenth century the class of persons now called artists did not exist, nor was there such a thing as an architect’s profession. There were simply various grades of workmen, skilled or less skilled, well known and honoured, or unknown and unhonoured.

Thus in a normal society a man and a sculptor of images are simply different kinds of artist.

Of art = craftsmanship

The word skilful does not mean well done, it means well made.

Art is skill in making; the good work is the skilful work.

The practice of art is called craft or craftsmanship.

Of drudgery

Drudgery is not inherent in the nature of the work, ‘of itself’, but in the sub-human conditions consequent upon commercialism, industrialism, and the abnormal growth of cities.

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