29 April 2008
On Tuesday, 28 April, BBC Radio 4 featured a programme about Winifred Gill (1891-1981), an artist, craftswoman, social reformer and puppeteer, whose papers were donated to the Bodleian earlier this year. Presented by writer Kate Mosse, the half-hour programme entitled ‘There’s more here than I thought’ explores the unknown life of this remarkable 20th-century woman.
Gill was a fascinating figure who found herself involved in a number of important social and artistic movements including Bloomsbury and the Omega workshop. Her complex personality is reflected by the variety of activities she was involved in during her lifetime: from teaching at a boarding school in Wales to taking part in an archeological dig in Glastonbury, from teaching crafts to the wives of internees during World War II to working for BBC radio. Largely through the rediscovery of the archive, she is emerging to take her rightful place in history and attracting the attention of the media and the world of scholarship.
Her lifetime archive includes correspondence and diaries, as well as paintings, prints, marionettes and first editions of books reflecting her many interests. A prolific letter writer, Gill wrote not just to colleagues and friends but to anyone whose work interested her including painters such as L.S. Lowry, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and writers Walter de la Mare and Laurence Housman. Her archive consisting of 18 boxes donated to the Bodleian while the prints were gifted to the Courtauld Gallery, and the marionettes to the Childhood Museum.
Chris Fletcher, Head of Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The personal archive of Winifred Gill is very research-rich. We are grateful to Dr Margaret Bennett, Gill’s niece, for the donation. This archive is just another example of the wide assortment of items found in the Bodleian’s collections. ’
Items from the Winifred Gill archive are currently on loan to the Courtauld Gallery for its upcoming exhibition on the Omega workshop opening in June.
The archive will be catalogued and become available to researchers in 2011.