Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Charles Dana Gibson

I was painting an old barn and house outside Camden, Maine about twenty years ago when an old man approached me from the house. He said, "I watched another guy painting right here some time ago". When I asked him who the artist was he replied"Charles Dana Gibson".

Charles Dana Gibson 1867-1944 was born in Roxbury Massachusetts and started out as a young apprentice to Augustus Saint-Gadens the great American sculptor, later he studied at the art students league. He worked as an illustrator in the beginning in the eighteen nineties but became famous when he created the Gibson Girl. He worked for all of the biggest magazines of the day and was paid fabulous sums for his art. Until the first World War American women tried to be like her. She was Americas first pinup girl, but lacked the naughtiness of the later iterations in that genre. She wore long dresses, held her head high with her hair drawn up on top, the picture of elegance, but sporty and fun too. She also had the monobosom, one single oblong breast that went from one side of the chest to the other. I have no idea how that worked.

Dana's incisive ink drawings are a little like Heinrich Klees that I have written about before. His sure hand expressions not only the pretty girls but all sorts of different types of men. Notice the different sorts in the drawing above, all drawn to the pretty girl in their midst.

Gibson was in the right place at the right time as well as being talented he benefitted from the change over in magazine illustration from woodcut printing which was used to reproduce Homers work, to photointaglio that could capture his ink drawings. His clean line drawings with their sharp contrasts photographed well and looked good when printed with the inked plate mad mecahnically from his original drawings.

Notice the value stacking in the picture above. The girl in the white dress is superimposed on the smiling geezer behind her. Gibson likes to show old men looking a little foolish in their admiration for the youthful ingenues he is peddling.

Gibson lived in his later years on a private island off the coast near Camden, Maine

There is a great post tonight over at Underpaintings Mathew Iness's blog, about Fred Fixler illustrator and teacher. This is a must read, it has a great deal of good advice on painting.


Richard J. Luschek II said...

Gibson is one of my heroes. I do a lot of pen and ink, and often have books of his work open to study. Masterful stuff. I would be interested to see the painting Gibson painted in Camden.
I also enjoy a drink that may be named after Gibson, which is a dry gin martini with a pickled onion instead of an olive.

Libby Fife said...

All of the rest of the info was obliterated after reading about the "monobosom." Sorry. It is the corset I am sure that created that effect. Anyway, once I stopped laughing it was a very informative post.

billspaintingmn said...

Isn't that where the hour glass figure statement came from?

Brenda said...

Very interesting. I love his work.

MCG said...

Monobosom's and Gibson martini's.
man I love this blog...!

Joe Winkler said...

Gibson is great but I LOVE Leyendecker!

Stapleton Kearns said...

The drink was named after his martini preference.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am experimenting at home with coconuts.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is as old as mankind.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

Me too but we aren't there yet.

Elizabeth said...

Gibson, my great grandfather, actually spent many summers throughout his life on the island off of Lincolnville, Maine. The point on which he built his house is still called Gibson Point. On that Point he built a chapel and 2 play houses out of brick for his two grandchildren. His studio where he painted oils of family members and Maine scenery is also located on this island.