Ernest Gimson Biography

Ernest Gimson: A Luminary of the Arts and Crafts Movement

Ernest Gimson, the son of Josiah Gimson, an engineer and iron founder and the founder of Gimson and Company, was born in Leicester in 1864. Between 1881-1885, he was articled to Isaac Barradale, working at Grey Friars. After completing his degree at Leicester School of Art and gaining considerable architectural experience, Gimson's encounter with William Morris led to a valuable correspondence and recommendations for further experience in London.

Professional Growth and Influences

Gimson spent two years working for John Dando Sedding, focusing on textures and surfaces, often inspired by nature. The proximity of Sedding's offices to Morris & Co. showrooms provided Gimson with a front-row view of the flourishing Arts and Crafts design. In Sedding’s studio, Gimson met Sidney Barnsley, with whom he later partnered in 1900 to form a workshop employing cabinet-makers.

Formation of Kenton and Co. and Embrace of Traditional Crafts

In 1889, after further European travels, Gimson joined Morris's Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. The following year, he co-founded the furniture company Kenton and Co., focusing on individually designed and well-made furniture. In 1890, Gimson learned the craft of making ash and oak chairs with rush seats from Philip Clisset, a skilled chair maker in Herefordshire, aligning with the Arts and Crafts Movement ethos.

Establishment in Cirencester and Legacy

In 1900, Gimson, along with the Barnsley brothers, settled in Cirencester, where he established a furniture workshop at Daneway House. He remained there until his death in 1919, aspiring to create a Utopian craft village. His chief cabinet-maker was Peter van der Waals. Gimson's craftwork and furniture, epitomizing the period's achievement, are displayed in principal collections of decorative arts in Britain and the US, including the New Walk Museum in Leicester and the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum.

Lethaby aptly summarized his philosophy: "Work not words, things not designs, life not rewards were his aims." Gimson's contribution to the Arts and Crafts Movement remains influential and widely celebrated.

Researched and written by Tony Geering & Kristy Campbell.

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