Born in Leicester in 1864, Ernest Gimson is remembered as one of the most influential designers of the British Arts and Crafts Movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
At the age of 19, Gimson attended a lecture on 'Art and Socialism' at the Leicester Secular Society given by William Morris and was greatly inspired by his ideas. Morris encouraged Gimson to carry on his architectural training in London and gave him an introduction to the architect John Sedding. It was at John Sedding's studio where Gimson met Ernest Barnsley and subsequently, Sidney Barnsley. Also inspired by the ideas of William Morris, Ernest and Sidney moved with Gimson from London to the Cotswolds in 1893 to put their beliefs into practice, establishing a Cotswolds tradition of furniture making.
Gimson built a reputation for his distinctive style and superb quality, his work is characterised by simplicity of design and careful choice of woods.
Here, we take a closer look at pieces by and inspired by Gimson featuring in our April 2022 Design Since 1860 auction...
Copies of letters held at The Wilson, Cheltenham relate to this piece. The workshop Job Book states the cabinet took over 1000 hours to make (around 20 weeks) in 1916-17. It was made by Ernest Smith with some assistance from Harry Davoll, under the supervision of Peter Waals. The price charged was £85.10s, less than the cost of £88.10s given in the Job Book (1941.225.121, p.31).
The piece is typical of Gimson's later work, based on his early designs but made much more elaborate by the addition of the shaped cornice. In one of his letters, Gimson revealed that he had received an order for a similar piece as a result of this example, but that it would not be a repeat as he had 'used up the last veneers of a famous tree'.
The original design drawings for the side chairs in this set, signed by Ernest Gimson and dated Dec 31st 1908 and 1909, are held in the Cheltenham Museum Archive (The Wilson) (1941.222.160 and 1941.222.453).
The original design for this table is held at The Wilson, Cheltenham (1941.222:401) and is inscribed ‘Dining or Hall Table in English Oak’, signed and dated ‘Ernest W. Gimson / Daneway House Nr Cirencester / Aug – 1909’.
An earlier, larger table in walnut was sold by Mellors & Kirk in March 2013. This table which has an ebony-inlaid edge was made for the designer’s brother Mentor Gimson (1851–1925) and measures 153 cm diameter, slightly smaller than the present contemporary copy.
Lyon & Turnbull’s Decorative Arts & Design specialists are renowned for both their knowledge and their sales of artworks conducted from our Scottish auction house based in Edinburgh and via our live online auctions. Our specialists are experts not only on design from 1860 to the present, but also on current market conditions, an essential combination to any successful auction.
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