Ananda Coomaraswamy

Alice Richardson


Alice Richardson met Ananda Coomaraswamy around 1910, most probably at a recital of folk songs given by pupils of the collector of folk songs and cultural revivalist, Cecil Sharp. Richardson accompanied Coomaraswamy on a trip to India in 1911 and became his second wife. They lived on a houseboat in Srinagar, Kashmir, whilst she studied Indian music with Abdul Rahim of Kapurthala, and Coomaraswamy researched Rajput painting of northern India.

Once back in London, Alice Coomaraswamy became noted for her recitals of Indian music which were often introduced by an explanatory lecture given by her husband. She performed widely in the UK (including at the Theosophical Society Summer Schools) under the name Ratan Devi and in Indian dress. When the Coomaraswamys first went to the US, it was for her concert tour. Alice had two children (a boy, Narada, and a girl, Rohini) by Coomaraswamy before their divorce and his subsequent marriage to the American dancer and artist, Stella Bloch.

Published works: 

Thirty Songs From the Panjab and Kashmir, Recorded by Ratan Devi with Introduction and Translations by Ananda K. Coomarswamy and a Foreword by Rabindranath Tagore (Old Bourne Press, 1913)


Tagore, Rabindranath, 'Foreword', in Thirty Songs From the Panjab and Kashmir: Recorded by Ratan Devi with Introduction and Translations by Ananda K. Coomarswamy (Old Bourne Press, 1913), pp. vi-ii


Rabindranath Tagore describes his experience of hearing Ratan Devi sing.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Modern Review (October 1911)


Asiatic Review

New York Times


Sometimes the meaning of a poem is better understood in a translation, not necessarily because it is more beautiful than the original, but as in the new setting the poem has to undergo a trial, it shines more brilliantly if it comes out triumphant. So it seemed to me that Ratan Devi’s singing our songs gained something in feeling and truth. Listening to her I felt more clearly than ever that our music is the music of cosmic emotion...Ratan Devi sang an alap in Kandra, and I forgot for a moment that I was in a London drawing-room. My mind got itself transported in the magnificence of an eastern night, with its darkness, transparent, yet unfathomable, like the eyes of an Indian maiden, and I seemed to be standing alone in the depth of its stillness and stars.

Secondary works: 

Clayton, Martin, and Zon, Bennett, Music and Orientalism in the British Empire, 1780s-1940s: Portrayal of the East (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007)

Crowley, Aleister, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ed. by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969)

Lipsey, Roger, Coomaraswamy, 3 vols, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977)

Archive source: 

Stella Bloch Papers, Princeton University Library, Princeton

Other names: 

Ratan Devi

Alice Coomaraswamy

Eric Gill


Eric Gill was one of the most significant sculptors to work in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. As well as being a talented stone carver, he was also a gifted draughtsman, letterer, typographer and printer. Rejecting the established techniques of making sculpture with the aid of the pointing machine, Gill is credited with re-establishing the practice of ‘direct carving’ in Britain and influencing the work of subsequent generations of sculptors, including Henry Moore.

Gill began to make sculpture in 1909, having trained in the offices of the architect W. D. Caroë and enrolled in evening classes in masonry at the Westminster Technical Institute and calligraphy at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. His first figural sculpture, Estin Thalassa (now lost), combined cut lettering, for which he had already become well known, and a naked, crouching woman. He showed photographs of this work to William Rothenstein and Roger Fry who became crucial supporters of his work. Whilst Rothenstein was travelling in India, Gill wrote to him telling him about his own exposure in Britain to images of Indian architecture and sculpture through a publication called Wonders of the World.

In 1908, Gill met Ananda Coomaraswamy at a lecture given by the latter at the Art Workers’ Guild in London. Through these acquaintances, Gill became interested in the art and culture of India and he joined the India Society in 1910 (as did fellow sculptor Jacob Epstein). Gill took a specific interest in the religious carving which adorned South Asian temples, heavily influenced by Coomaraswamy’s publications. In his Autobiography, Gill wrote of Coomaraswamy: ‘I dare not confess myself his disciple; that would only embarrass him. I can only say that I believe that no other living writer has written the truth in matters of art and life and religion and piety with such wisdom and understanding.’ Gill also wrote an introductory essay on ‘Art and Reality’ for Mulk Raj Anand’s The Hindu View of Art and contributed a full-page engraving to Anand’s The Lost Child, published in 1934.

Published works: 

‘Preface’, in Vivakarma: Examples of Indian Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Handicraft, Chosen by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, First Series: One Hundred Examples of Indian Sculpture: With an Introduction by Eric Gill (London: Messrs. Luzac, 1914), pp. 3-7

Slavery and Freedom (Ditchling: St Dominic’s Press, 1917)

Sculpture (Ditchling: St Dominic’s Press, 1918)

Birth Control (Ditchling: St Dominic’s Press, 1919)

Dress (Ditchling: St Dominic’s Press, 1921)

Art and Love (Waltham St Lawrence: Golden Cockerel Press, 1928)

The Future of Sculpture (London: Lanston Monotype Corporation Ltd)

Art-Nonsense and Other Essays (London: Cassell & Co. and Francis Walterson, 1929)

Sculpture and the Living Model (London: Faber & Faber)

Art and a Changing Civilisation (London: John Lane – The Bodley, 1934)

The Necessity of Belief (London: Faber & Faber/Hague & Gill, 1936)

Work & Property (London: Dent & Sons/Hague & Gill, 1937)

Twenty-five Nudes (London: Dent & Sons/Hague & Gill, 1938)

Autobiography (London: Jonathan Cape, 1940)


Eric Gill to William Rothenstein, letter written whilst Rothenstein was travelling in India, 6 January 1911, Ms ENG 1148/596/36, William Rothenstein Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Date of birth: 
22 Feb 1882
Contributions to periodicals: 

The Listener (‘A Sign and a Symbol’, 15 March 1933, p. 397)

(under pseudonym E. Rowton) Westminster Cathedral Chronicle (‘The Stations of the Cross in the Cathedral’, March 1918, p. 52)


So we have been gaining some small notion of the sort of thing you are seeing… I agree with you in your suggestion that the best route to Heaven is via Elephanta, Ellora & Ajanta. They must be wonderful places indeed…Someday we will follow in your footsteps and go and see the real things.

Secondary works: 

Attwater, Donald, A Cell of Good Living: The Life, Works and Opinions of Eric Gill (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1969)

Attwater, Donald, Eric Gill: Workman (London: James Clarke & Co., 1941)

Collins, Judith, Eric Gill: Sculpture (London: Lund Humphries, in association with Barbican Art Gallery, 1992)

Collins, Judith, Eric Gill, the Sculpture: A Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Herbert Press, 1998)

Gill, E. R., Bibliography of Eric Gill (London: Cassell & Co. 1953)

Gill, E. R., The Inscriptional Work of Eric Gill: An Inventory (London: Cassell & Co. 1964)

Physick, J. F., The Engraved Works of Eric Gill (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1963)

Jones, David, Epoch and Artist (London: Faber & Faber, 1959)

MacCarthy, Fiona, Eric Gill (London: Faber & Faber, 1989)

Peace, David, Eric Gill: The Inscriptions (London: The Herbert Press, 1994)

Rothenstein, J. K. M., Eric Gill (London: Jonathan Cape, 1927)

Shewering, Walter (ed.), The Letters of Eric Gill (London: Jonathan Cape, 1947)

Skelton, Christopher, The Engravings of Eric Gill (Wellingborough: Skelton’s Press, 1983)

Speaight, Robert, The Life of Eric Gill (London: Methuen, 1966)

Thorpe, Joseph, Eric Gill (London: Jonathan Cape, 1929)

Yorke, Malcolm, Eric Gill: Man of Flesh and Spirit (London: Constable, 1981)

Archive source: 

Diaries and papers, NUC MS 77-1948, William Andrew Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles

Correspondence, Add 73195 ff, Manuscript Collections, British Library, St Pancras

Letter and photographs, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

Correspondence, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Papers, including artwork files, Chatto & Windus Archive, Reading University Library, Reading

Postcards and drawings, MSL/1977/5316; MSL1983/24/1-2; MSL/1957/3382; MSL/1977/5952; MSL/1964/3241, National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum

Correspondence and papers, University of San Francisco Library, San Franscisco

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Arthur Eric Rowton Gill

Date of death: 
17 Nov 1940

Brighton; Chichester; Ditchling, Sussex; Capel-y-ffin, Wales; Piggots, Buckinghamshire.

Subscribe to RSS - Ananda Coomaraswamy