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 Paul Ludwig Gill  (1894 - 1938)

About: Paul Ludwig Gill


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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: sea-town-landscape, genre, mural

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BIOGRAPHY for Paul Gill
1894 (Auburn, New York)
1938 (Harvey Cedars)


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sea-town-landscape, genre, mural

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Taos Pre 1940
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, at the suggestion of Wes Loder, Campus Librarian, Penn State/Schuylkill, heavily references the website:

Paul Ludwig Gill, painter and teacher at the Moore Institute of Design in Philadelphia, was born in 1894 in Auburn, New York. By 1920, he had graduated from Syracuse University, served in the army and nearly died from the complications he experienced as a result of the flu and his treatment at Walter Reed Hospital. He had lost a lung and could not indulge in rigorous activities.

In 1928, he married artist Sue May Wescott, and the two traveled extensively together early in their relationship, going from England to Paris, to Italy, visiting museums and art schools and to Spain, Algiers and Tunisia and north to Switzerland. In every place, they painted side-by-side: same subjects, different results.

Paul's training at Syracuse gave him practical, illustrative skills that he used to create luminous charcoal illustrations for many of the leading magazines, particularly those published by the Philadelphia-based Curtis Publishing Company, including the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal and Country Gentlemen. He also made etchings and worked with a graflex camera, which he used both as an original tool and a means of capturing an image that would later be used in paintings.

His oil paintings combined a bold and rich palette with dynamic shapes to create paintings that grab the viewer. Despite the strong strokes, his draftmanship never failed and proportions, perspective and modeling come through in every image. As a result his work appears to be impressionistic and realistic simultaneously.

But watercolor was to be the medium in which Paul Gill would gain fame and make his reputation. He began to experiment with the medium in the late Teens; his early work following the styles of others with color covering most of the paper. But in Europe he began to open up the images, leaving large areas of white paper to add illuminosity and allow the unmixed colors to brighten.

Paul's later watercolors transended the medium's limitations. A quick, light pencil sketch would be followed by bold lines and colors, many pure. With a twist of the brush, a building, person or boat would take on three dimensions, the white paper substituting for brilliant sunlight or sparkling water. No other watercolorists would be as successful in creating works that use all the medium's strengths. Even today, he would be considered to be among the finest watercolorist this country has seen.

Matched in their determination to succeed, work ethic and appreciation of each other's talents, Paul and his wife, Sue May, acted as mentors and chorus to each other, bringing out the best in each and contributing the finest images either would produce. They lived in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

The depression initially cut into the Gills' income enough to prevent their practice of annual travel by car to exotic locations throughout North America. In 1930 they were painting in Isle de Orleans in Canada, but the next several years they spent most of their summers in Harvey Cedars, New Jersey.

Sue May's parents had moved to a summer resort on Long Beach Island in the 1920's, and she and Paul bought their own little cottage in Harvey Cedars just one house from the beach and from the mid-Twenties on spent much of their non-traveling time in the summers there. Paul was fascinated by the ocean dories used by the fishermen at Surf City and Shipbottom and he would return to the beach where the men would launch and bring in their boats again and again.

In 1934, the couple resumed their travels and between 1934 and 1937 visited and worked in Taos, Mexico, Taos, New Mexico, Arizona, the Gaspé Peninsula, Canada, and Nova Scotia. The trip into the Mexican interior in 1936 at a time when the countryside knew no paved roads or improved services were particularly adventurous."At one time they had to pull our car up by ropes to get us over a certain place. It was the most terrific time I have ever had."

Paul's death was sudden and dramatic. Age 44 and at the peak of his reputation, never more productive and teaching at the Women's School of Design, Paul could look forward to a national recognition. He had just completed a mural for a post office in Cairo, Georgia, and he and Sue May were preparing for another trip to Mexico. Closing up the cottage in Harvey Cedars, he went out to the car and never came back. His wife found him dead by the car a short time later.

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