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Portrait: Eric Gill Dreaming

Written by Alison MacLeod. Creative non-fiction in which the controversial artist Eric Gill dreams about his work and life.

The artist, or the man?

For most of the twentieth century, Eric Gill was known for his sculptures and drawings, printmaking and the iconic typeface that bears his name. But in 1989, Fiona MacCarthy's acclaimed biography of the artist - which included extensive research into Gill's private journals - revealed another side, including an incestuous relationship with his sister and the sexual abuse of two of his three daughters.

Since then, it has been difficult for many to approach his art in its previous light.

The Ditchling Museum Of Art And Craft mounted a major retrospective, Eric Gill: The Body, which ran from April to September 2017. This short story by Alison MacLeod, emerged from her time as one of the writers-in-residence for the exhibition. The voices sequence in the story is inspired by visitors' responses to the exhibition.

A work of creative non-fiction, Portrait: Eric Gill Dreaming imagines Gill in his house in Ditchling, asleep and dreaming about his work and life, and wondering whether or not they go together.

Which brings us back to the original question - the artist, or the man?

Alison MacLeod lives in Brighton. She was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2011 and her stories, including the series Imagining Chekhov, have featured previously on Radio 4. Her novel Unexploded was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and was broadcast as a Book At Bedtime. Her latest collection of stories, All The Beloved Ghosts, was published in 2017. Alison is Professor of Contemporary Fiction at the University of Chichester.

Writer: Alison MacLeod
Reader: Indira Varma
Producer: Jeremy Osborne

A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.

15 minutes


Role Contributor
Writer Alison MacLeod
Reader Indira Varma
Producer Jeremy Osborne