Perhaps the most prolific artist of the nineteenth century, Sir John Gilbert (1817-97) was President of the Royal Watercolour Society, a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and illustrator for numerous illustrated papers, novels and children's books. Yet despite his impressive list of achievements, his name has become lost among figures such as Leighton, Watts, Millais and Burne-Jones who dominated the Victorian art world of which he was a part.
Re-assessment of Gilbert's contribution to British art history reveals an artist who created powerful images - strong on narrative, romantic, illustrative and escapist - that have much to offer the viewer today. In addition, Gilbert is an interesting figure, both for what his story can tell us about Victorian taste and the vagaries of the art market, and because of his unusual practice of working contemporaneously in oils, watercolour and as an illustrator, blurring the boundaries between these media and using them interchangeably.
Bringing together a selection of large-scale historical paintings, modest and rarely seen landscape watercolours, illustrated novels and children's books, newspaper illustrations and ephemera from both public and private sources, Sir John Gilbert: Art and Imagination in the Victorian Age explores both an unduly neglected figure and some important aspects of Victorian life. Offering first-class, original research, Sir John Gilbert is essential reading for all those with a particular interest in Victorian art, literature and society.