Charle Dana Gibson And His Work

There can be little doubt that Mr. Charles Dana Gibson stands at the very front rank of the black-and-white artists of to-day. As a humorist, satirist, and illustrator in black-and-white, he has few equals.

  • "The Education of Mr. Pipp"

  • The same remark applies to one of Mr. Gibson’s latest contributions to the gaiety of the nations, viz., “The Education of Mr. Pipp (of New York)," which originally appeared in the New York Life. On this side of the water this famous series appeared in Mr. Henderson's publications, notably in Pictorial Comedy. For pure unadulterated humour these drawings have probably never been excelled or equalled; out of which the artist has given us some of his very best humorous work.

  • "People of Dickens"

  • No admirer of this brilliant artist’s work, or, it might equally be said, none of the many admirers of Dickens, can ignore Mr. Gibson’s “People of Dickens.” They consist of six studies, and are as follows: ‘Scrooge’ (from “A Christmas Carol"); ‘Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness’ (from “The Old Curiosity Shop”); ‘Mr. Pickwick delivering his famous oration’ (from “Pickwick Papers”); ‘Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, David Copperfield, and Traddles’ (from “David Copperfield" ); ‘Caleb Plummet and his Daughter’ (from “The Cricket on the Hearth”); ‘Tom Pinch and his Sister' (from “Martin Chuzzlewit” ). These six carefully-drawn studies are not so widely circulated, perhaps, as much of Mr. Gibson's other work. But they are none the less excellent. Perhaps we will yet see an edition of Dickens’s works illustrated by the subject of this article.


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In an article such as this it is obviously impossible to touch upon all the subjects which Mr. Gibson has dealt with during the course of a busy career. The references that have been made will clearly indicate that the subject of his drawings contain much humour, and he rarely allows his drawings to fall from that high standard which he assumed at the commencement of his career.

Although Mr. Dana Gibson is still quite a young man -- he was born in the year 1867, and is thus thirty-two years of age -- he has for some years held an enviable position in the world of art, and his brilliant work must be familiar to many thousands of the English-speaking pe0ple, both in Great Britain and in his own country across the sea.

His audience is a very large one, and it is a mere platitude to say that the influence which he is able to exert is very considerable. After all, the artist who can genuinely amuse is a public benefactor. The world is full enough of tragedy, and it is well not to lose sight of the humorous side of life altogether. Pessimism, depression, and kindred ills, are not unknown ailments in this age, and we need correcting forces. The humorist in black-and-white is certainly one of those forces. The black-and-white artist who can cleverly depict the humorous side of life has a distinct mission. The subject of this article has for many years admirably fulfilled this mission, but he has not scored his pictorial triumphs at the expense of somebody's feelings, and Mr. Gibson’s humour is rarely forced. Certainly he has not hesitated to hit off the foibles of his age, but his satire does not libel, and it is invariably of the humorous order.

Born at Roxburg, Massachusetts, in the United States of America, on September 14th, 1867, he lived some years in Boston, where all his people came from. When he was eight years of age, he went to live at Flushing, a few miles out of New York. It was at Flushing where Mr. Gibson received his early training for the career which he was to follow with so much success. When he was seventeen he commenced to attend the Art Students' League in that town. Here he studied two years, in 1884 and 1885. The latent faculty was cultivated with so good effect that a year later the young artist, that is, when he was but a youth of nineteen, made his début in the pages of the New York Life (sometimes described as the Punch of America), to which paper he has contributed regularly ever since, much of his best humorous drawings appearing in its pages. In the succeeding years, Mr. Dana Gibson has gone right ahead. From the very first, his success was assured, and now he is certainly one of, if not the most prominent black-and-white artists of to-day.


From an early date in his career his work found its way into the best American illustrated magazines, including Scribner‘s, The Century, and Harper’s. By arrangement, a good deal of his later work has appeared in some of the leading English magazines, including the Pall Mall and the Graphic. And Mr. james Henderson, proprietor of several well-known humorous papers published in this country, has done much to familiarise Mr. Dana Gibson’s work to English readers, he having for the past nine years copyrighted the whole of the contents of New York Life, the pictures and letterpress being published simultaneously in London and New York. It is to Mr. Henderson we are indebted for permission to reproduce the illustrations in this article.

During the last six years, Mr. Gibson has travelled extensively. In 1893 he spent to excellent purpose a year in the Mecca of many Americans, Paris. Two years later he was attracted to the “hub of the universe,” known as London, remaining there about a year (1895-96), and his notable series, “London as Seen by C. D. Gibson,” which appeared originally in the pages of Scribner's Magazine in 1897, was the result. Besides the large number of characteristic drawings constituting this series, the artist was also responsible for the brightly written letterpress. Mr. Gibson also spent some time in Munich in 1897-98, giving him further opportunities of studying types.

In these several countries Mr. Gibson found excellent material for his artistic genius. Travel obviously enlarges one's outlook, and to the artist a change of scene and environment is very necessary. His stock-in-trade is thus increased, and stereotyped characters are avoided.

Most of Mr. Dana Gibson’s work is readily accessible, most of his contributions to New York Life, Scribner's, Harper’s, etc., having been republished in large attractive volumes. These consist of “Drawings: Humorous American Pictures,” 1895; “London as Seen by C. D. Gibson " (descriptive text by the author), 1898; “People of Dickens” (six plates), 1897; “Pictures of People," 1896; “Sketches and Cartoons,” 1898. The “Sketches and Cartoons," “Drawings," and “Pictures of People," each contain eighty-four drawings. His “Egyptian Sketches," done for the S. S. McClure Co., which also appeared in the Pall Mall Magazine in the issues of March, April, and May, 1899, were also republished.

London has already been dealt with by scores of capable artists and authors. The material, however, is practically inexhaustible. Mr. Gibson’s series, “London as Seen by C. D. Gibson," is a notable one, which the historian of the nineteenth century will not overlook. He has gone into the fashionable thoroughfares and the by-ways; he has visited the clubs and the theatres, the music-halls and the Law Courts, and described in vivid pictures and prose what he has seen there. He has walked the parks, and given us types and scenes met with in London's lungs. He has witnessed a Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace, and given us pictures of the ceremonies of presentation to the Queen.

Mr. Gibson draws the American Society girl as no other artist can do, or at any rate does. Grace and charm characterise his pictures of American society life. We might go through the pages of the publications containing his drawings and refer to some of them. Amongst other things in Scribner's, Mr. Gibson illustrated two serials by Richard Harding Davis, entitled “Soldiers of Fortune” and "The King's Jackal.” He also contributed a large number of excellent drawings to accompany a series of papers on “The Art of Living," by Robert Grant; also the illustrations to “Stories of College Life,” by A. C. Goodloe, and to a series of papers on “New York Life,” etc., some being wash drawings. Reference has already been made to the articles written and illustrated by Mr. Gibson, dealing with London, which appeared in this well-known monthly. The pages of Harper's are illuminated by a good deal of Mr. Gibson‘s work. Several articles and short stories by Richard Harding Davis were illustrated by him, including “The Boy Orator of Zepata City," “Americans in Paris," “At the Grand Hotel Du Paradis," “Princess Aline," “Streets of Paris,” “The Show Places of Paris," etc. Mr. Gibson also depicted the Harvard and Yale Boat Race, and he supplied the illustrations to “By Hook or Crook," by Robert Grant. Amongst his work for the Century are included the illustrations to “The Merry Chanter," a serial by Frank R. Stockton; illustrations to various short stories and articles, including “People in New York," “The Colonel’s Last Campaign,” and some striking illustrations accompanying " Sweet Bells out of Tune,” a serial by Mrs. Burton Harrison.

He also furnished the illustrations for two of Mr. Anthony Hope’s notable novels, “The Prisoner of Zenda” and “Rupert of Hentzau.” It is interesting to mention, by the way. that in one of his drawings describing the Salons in his London series appears a portrait of Mr. Anthony Hope (or Mr. Anthony Hope Hawkins, to give his full name); the late Mr. Du Maurier and, I think, the late Mr. Morris, also appear in this drawing, which is entitled “Distinguished Guests.” Mr. Dana Gibson has illustrated a novel, “The Violet,” by J. Magruder.

American Society Life

Many of Mr. Gibson’s drawings, treating of American Society life, deal with the eternal questions of love, courtship, and marriage. And in several of his pictures cupids, singly and in numbers, are depicted. In one of these a number of cupids are in charge of a coach, the team consisting of ill-mated young ladies and old men; the letterpress is, “His everlasting experiments with ill-mated pairs.” In another, a number of cupids are seen in boats by the sea-shore, by the side of which an elegantly-dressed young lady is approaching. The wording is, “Danger: the shore is lined with wrecks.” In another, a cupid lies dead. A quarrel is depicted and the title is, “Love will die.” In another a number of cupids, on which the sun is shining, are lining the sea-shore; the title is, “That restless sea.” Many more instances could be given, one of the best forming our illustration of a newly-wedded pair “in their room but a moment when they were startled by a knock.”

Mr. Gibson is very happy in his golf pictures. In one a little cupid is in evidence with the golf implements; and the letterpress is, “Golf is not the only game on earth." Another of the best, "Is a Caddy always necessary?" forms one of our illustrations.

What is probably, at the time of writing, his latest work, appears in the Christmas Number of Scribner's Magazine. In a series of seven delightful drawings he depicts the seven phases of an American girl‘s life, the titles being, The Nursery, Schooldays, The Debutante, The Mother, Indian Summer, Chaperone, The Evening.

In conclusion, the writer wishes to express his indebtedness for the courtesy and kindness received at the hands of Mr. Nelson E. Henderson, through whose agency the examples of Mr. Gibson‘s work accompanying this article are reproduced.

The Art Journal, J. A. Reid, Volume 62, Virtue and Company, 1907