Eric Gill isn’t the first person to do horrible things to people, Picasso was infamous for that. The article Pablo Picasso: close to the sun notes how two of the women he had relationships with were driven to mental breakdowns, and two committed suicide.
Knowing this I still like his art for what it is as art, but have mixed feelings about keeping books about him as a person in my home.
I, as well as many of my artist friends know that there is a bit of ourselves that goes into everything we create. If you know any of us well enough, you will see our influences, and a bit of our personality.
However, as we all interpret the world around us differently, our art is an expression of those interpretations. It is not meant to be taken literally.
I agree with Barthes to a point. I think you can enjoy an artist’s creations knowing he/she had a dark side. You’ll likely have clouded opinions of the work, but you’ll also have an opportunity to look at the art from a different light. You can raise questions and try to understand where the artist was coming from at that point in time when they created their art. Regardless of whether you are able to distance yourself from the emotional connection, or choose to remain blissfully ignorant regarding an artist’s vile personal history, the question remains: is great art is still great art?