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Tuesday 14 April 2020


This elegantly written, beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated book brings to the fore Ernest Gimson (1864–1919), a central figure in the Arts & Crafts movement. The authors have brought curatorial and scholarly expertise to the project, together with a deep understanding of the movement and, through Barley Roscoe, Gimson’s great-great-niece, knowledge of his life and family background.

The book combines biography with an analysis of Gimson’s work as an architect and designer of diverse items. In ‘Life’, the authors survey Gimson’s life and career, from his upbringing in Leicester to his London training and travels. In the following chapters they chart his early work and involvement with Kenton & Co., his move to the Cotswolds in 1893 and then the Sapperton workshops, concluding with an analysis of his approach to the process of designing.

‘Work’ examines his oeuvre in greater detail, from early architectural projects, houses and gardens, to later architectural work and planning schemes, plasterwork, interior decoration and furnishings, furniture design and making, metalwork. It also covers lesser known areas including embroidery and bookbinding. In the final chapter which considers the Gimson tradition, it is notable that Josef Frank of the Austrian Werkbund adapted formal elements from Gimson’s furniture and admired his approach to interior decoration.

The text is based on extensive new research, with 320 illustrations, many previously unpublished, including photographs from the Gimson family archive, designs, and a number of photographs by James Brittain of buildings, interiors, objects and details. The book keeps alive the spirit of a designer and craftsman who, as his contemporary William Lethaby observed, was motivated by ‘work not words, things not designs, life not rewards’.

Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect

Annette Carruthers, Mary Greensted & Barley Roscoe, Yale University Press, 2019, £50 hb

The DAS contributed £2500 towards the costs of publication.

Condensed from a review by Max Donnelly in DAS Newsletter No. 118