Charles Dana Gibson

Charles Dana Gibson

The Illustrators:

The illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson, one of America's most prolific and popular artists, had a profound effect on American life and culture.

Born into a prominent Roxbury, Massachusetts family, Gibson studied two years at the New york Art Students League before venturing out into the commercial art world.

His pen-and-ink drawings appeared in Life humor magazine in 1886 and continued to be featured there for the next thirty years.

His loose, confident line work illustrating social commentary made his drawings recognizable and immensely popular.

As magazine printing evolved from wood engraving to photo-mechanical ink line reproduction in the 1880s, Gibson's florid and often imitated style fit perfectly with the new technology.

All the major periodicals carried his work and he created many illustrations for books and decorative household items from stationery to cocktail napkins. His development of the Gibson Girl and Gibson Man in the 1890s brought him world-wide fame and respect, and considerable wealth.

The Gibson Girl, iconic symbol of poised, self assured American women, remained popular from the post-Victorian era until after World War I.

She was based on characterizations of Gibson's wife Irene Langhorne Gibson and her sister Nancy Astor, the first woman to serve in Britain's Parliament.

The Gibson Man reflected the looks and manner of Gibson's friend Richard Harding Davis, debonaire, ruggedly handsome writer, war correspondent, and adventurer.

After color printing and photography in magazines became more popular than black and white illustration, the popularity of Gibson' drawing style faded. He devoted his later years to oil portraits and his island home off the coast of Maine.

Many examples of his work can be found today on-line at various Websites.

Check the Image Galleries for more examples of the work of Charles Dana Gibson.

Above: Story illustration for the serialized novel
“The Common Law,” by Robert W. Chambers, 1911.

Above: A typical “Gibson Girl” pen-and-ink cover illustration,
for “A Widow and Her Friends,” 1901.

Above: Gibson's wife, Irene Langhorne Gibson and his friend, writer
Richard Harding Davis, models for the Gibson Girl and the Gibson Man.

Above: Gibson knew well the intricacies and vicissitudes of love and life
in New York’s society. Illustration from Life magazine, 1896.

Above: “She Goes Into Colors,” 1901.

Above: From “The Weaker Sex,” 1903, “Mr. A. Merger Hog is
taking a few day’s much-needed rest at his country home.”

Above: From “Our Neighbors,”1905, “The Story of an Empty Sleeve.”

Above: A café artist at work in Paris, c.1906.

Above: “The Wretched Heathen,” one of Gibson’s sketches in Egypt, 1899.

Marketplace at Spaleto, Italy, by Jules Guerin, vintage illustration, 1913 Jules Guerin, Painting of the Temple of Zeus Olympios, Atherns, Greece, c.1912

Above left: “On the bank at Komombos,” from “Sketches in Egypt,” 1899, a travelogue written and illustrated by Gibson for McClure’s magazine.

Above right: Sketch of an English girl, c1898. Gibson’s powerful style enabled him to capture gesture and likeness in a few simple strokes.

Above: Magazine cover art done in pastel of the central character
in “The Common Law,” by Robert W. Chambers, 1910.

Above: “Yes or No,” 1905.

Above: Magazine cover illustration, November 1910,
Cosmopolitan, first episode of “The Common Law.”

Above: Photograph of Gibson at forty three, in 1910. As the best-known illustrator in America, he had many imitators but few equals.
His characteristic style took decades to develop by learning
what to leave out of a picture.

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