The estate of the legendary British editor of Oz Magazine Felix Dennis, who died in June 2014, is to auction his vast collection of work by the controversial British artist Eric Gill. Reflecting on the artist and designer Dennis once said; “He may have led a reprehensible private life, (in truth, there is no ‘may’ about it, he most certainly did!) but as a sculptor, wood engraver, illustrator and typographer, he stands very high in the recent history of the creative arts in Britain.” Gill’s work has been immortalised in his now ubiquitous “Gill Sans” typeface. First launched in 1928, installed on hundreds of millions of computers world-wide, it has been used for the logo for the BBC since the mid-1990s (and also as the font for this press release). As a sculptor, he created some of the UKs most prestigious public commissions, including Prospero and Ariel for the BBC’s Broadcasting House.
The Felix Dennis Collection, comprising 99 lots, is the largest collection of works by Gill to remain in private hands. Spanning important works of sculpture, to engravings, illustrated books, paintings and wood carvings, the collection surveys the full scope of his prodigious and varied output. The collection will be offered on 9 December, as part of the English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations Sale, with individual estimates ranging from £200 to £25,000.
Felix Dennis was one of three editors jailed on obscenity charges following the 1971 Oz magazine trial. He became a hugely successful magazine and book publisher, well known for his unrestrained hedonistic lifestyle, claiming to have spent £100-150m on women and drugs during his lifetime. In later life, after overcoming an addiction to crack cocaine, Dennis concentrated on writing poetry and establishing a native forest near his home in Warwickshire. Following his death, he left instructions that the majority of his £500m fortune should be used to ensure the upkeep of this forest.
Dennis’s passion for art ran from the Ancient to the Contemporary, but it is his incomparable collection of works by Eric Gill that perhaps best encapsulates his personality and unalloyed love of life. Dennis’s love of the printed word, the natural world and a progressive (often controversial) attitude to living is reflected in Gill’s ground-breaking and varied output.
In her biography of the sculptor and typographer Eric Gill, Fiona MacCarthy revealed that Gill one of the most respected artists of his time regularly had sex with two of his daughters, his sisters and even the family dog. These encounters he recorded in his diary. Gill problematically was a devout Catholic convert who created some of the most popular religious art of his era including the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral an artwork depicting the suffering of Jesus.
Eric Gill: the Felix Dennis Collection The most important collection of Eric Gill’s work remaining in private hands Assembled by the maverick publisher Felix Dennis Auction on 9 December 2014 at Sotheby’s London