Mary Gillick and the making of medallic sculpture in twentieth-century Britain

Programmed alongside the exhibition Mary Gillick: Her Art in your Pocket in Gallery 4 (20 September 2017 - 28 January 2018), this half-day seminar examines Gillick’s sculptural practice in the context of twentieth-century numismatic design and features contributions from Philip Attwood (British Museum), Chris Barker (Royal Mint Museum), Katherine Baxter (Leeds Museums and Galleries), Ann Compton (University of Glasgow), Graham Dyer OBE (Royal Mint Museum) and Dr Rebecca Wade (Henry Moore Institute).

Mary Gillick was born in Nottingham and studied at Nottingham School of Art (1898-1902) before completing her training at the Royal College of Art (1902-04) under the sculptor Édouard Lantéri (1848-1917). She met fellow sculptor Ernest George Gillick (1874-1951) while at Nottingham and they married in 1905, forming what was described in her obituary as ‘an ideal working partnership’ based at their studio and home at Moravian Close in Chelsea from 1914.

Gillick was well-known during her lifetime for her medallic relief work and for the production of memorial portrait plaques for public buildings, but she is most widely remembered for her portrait of Queen Elizabeth II designed for the obverse of British and Commonwealth coinage. Gillick won the commission from a field of seventeen when she was seventy-one years old, recently bereaved and in poor health.

The commission had to strike a delicate balance between traditional numismatic design and the optimistic post-war spirit of the ‘New Elizabethans’ exemplified by the 1951 Festival of Britain. First struck in 1953, her depiction was unconventional because the new monarch was shown uncrowned and truncated at the shoulder in a design that was informed by the early Victorian bun penny and sixteenth-century lettering.

Venue details

Venue address

Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow
United Kingdom
T: 0113 246 7467

Opening times

Galleries: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Research Library: Monday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm; Sunday, 1 - 5pm
Archive of Sculptors' Papers: Tuesday to Friday, by prior appointment