- Ernest Gimson
birth_place= Leicester, England
death_date=Death date and age|1919|8|12|1864|12|21
death_place= Sapperton, England
Ernest William Gimson (Leicester,
Dec 21, 1864- Sapperton, August 12, 1919) was an English furniture designerand architect. Gimson was described by the art critic Nikolaus Pevsneras "the greatest of the English architect-designers". cite book |last=Pevsner |first=Nikolaus |year=1949 |title=Pioneers of Modern Design|publisher=Penguin Books, London, 1960, p.152] Today his reputation is securely established as one of the most influential designers of the English Arts and Crafts movementin the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Ernest Gimson was born in
Leicester, in the East Midlandsof England, in 1864, the son of Josiah Gimson, engineerand iron founder, owner of the Vulcan Works. Ernest was articled to the Leicester architect, Isaac Barradale. Aged 20, he attended a lecture on 'Art and Socialism' at the Leicester Secular Societygiven by the leader of the Arts and Crafts revival in Victorian England, William Morris.
Morris recommended him to the architectural practice of
John Dando Seddingin London. From Sedding, Gimson derived his interest in craft techniques, the stress on textures and surfaces, naturalistic detail of flowers, leaves and animals, always drawn from life, the close involvement of the architect in the simple processes of building and in the supervision of a team of craftsmen employed direct. He met Ernest Barnsleyat Sedding’s studio, and soon learnt the crafts of traditional chairmaking and plasterwork.
In 1889 he joined Morris’s
Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings(SPAB). In 1890, he was a founder member of the short-lived furniture company, Kenton and Co., with Sidney Barnsley, Alfred Hoare Powell, W.R. Lethaby, Mervyn Macartney, Col. Mallet and Reginald Blomfield. Here they acted as designers rather than craftsmen and explored inventive ways of articulating traditional crafts, “the common facts of traditional building”, as Philip Webb, “their particular prophet”, had taught.
Gimson and the Barnsley brothers moved to the rural region of the
Cotswoldsin Gloucestershirein 1893 “to live near to nature”. They soon settled at Pinbury Park, near Sapperton, on the Cirencester estate, under the patronage of the Bathurst family. In 1900, he set up a small furniture workshop in Cirencester, moving to larger workshops at Daneway House, a small medieval manor house at Sapperton, where he stayed until his death in 1919. He strove to invigorate the village community and, encouraged by his success, planned to found a Utopian craft village. He concentrated on designing furniture, made by craftsmen, under his chief cabinet-maker, Peter van der Waals, whom he engaged in 1901.
His architectural commissions include a number of early works in and around Leicester, such as Inglewood (1892), The White House (1898), Lea and Stoneywell Cottages (and others) at
Markfield(1897/8); his own cottage, The Leasowes, at Sapperton (1903, with a thatched roof, since burnt); alterations to Pinbury Park (with plasterwork) and Waterlane House (1908), both in Gloucestershire; cottages and the village hall (completed under Norman Jewsonin 1933) at Kelmscott, Oxfordshire; Coxen, at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, constructed in cob (rammed earth); and the window for WhaplodeChurch, Lincolnshire. His competition 'Design for the Federal Capital of Australia' (1908) is an original project in town planning for the city which was to become Canberra. His last major project was the Memorial Library (1918-1919) built next to the 1911 Lupton Hall at BedalesSchool, near Petersfield, Hampshire (built by Geoffrey Lupton under Sidney Barnsley’s supervision).
The Sapperton workshop was closed after Gimson's death, but many of the craftsmen went with Peter van der Waals to his new premises in
His architectural style is “solid and lasting as the pyramids… yet gracious and homelike” (H. Wilson, 1899). Lethaby described him as an idealist individualist: “Work not words, things not designs, life not rewards were his aims.”
Norman Jewsonwas his foremost student, who carried his design principles into the next generation and described his studio practices in his classic memoir "By Chance I did Rove" (1951).
Today his furniture and craft work is regarded as a supreme achievement of its period and is well represented in the principal collections of the decorative arts in Britain and the
United States of America. Specialist collections of his work may be seen in England at the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, and in Gloucestershire at the CheltenhamMuseum and Art Gallery, Rodmarton Manorand Owlpen Manor.
*Nicholas Mander, "Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire: a short history and guide" (Owlpen Press, current edition, 2006) OCLC|57576417 ISBN 0-9546056-1-6
*Alfred Powell, "Ernest Gimson, his life and work" (1919)
*Norman Jewson, "By Chance I did Rove" (Cirencester, 1951 (reprinted))
* [http://www.owlpen.com/gimson.shtml Ernest Gimson]
* [http://gimson.leicester.gov.uk Ernest Gimson and the Arts & Crafts Movement in Leicester]
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Gimson, Ernest — ▪ British designer born Dec. 21, 1864, Leicester, Eng. died Aug. 12, 1919, Sapperton, near Cirencester English designer of furniture, one of the Cotswold school of designers who sought to combine the traditions of rural craftsmanship with… … Universalium
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