Charles Dana Gibson's elegant drawings
captured the spirit of an age.


In Victorian times, illustrators for popular magazines had as much influence on people as movies and television do today.

Just as we now look for fashion ideas and moral inspiration from celebrities, actors, or musicians, so the Americans of the 1890's and first two decades of the past century found their hopes and ideals expressed in the pen-and-ink drawings of Charles Dana Gibson.

 

Many writers have attempted to describe the Gibson Girl, but Susan E. Meyer, in her book America's Great Illustrators did it best and most simply: 

"She was taller than the other women currently seen in the pages of magazines.. infinitely more spirited and independent, yet altogether feminine. 

She appeared in a stiff shirtwaist, her soft hair piled into a chignon, topped by a big plumed hat. Her flowing skirt was hiked up in back with just a hint of a bustle.

She was poised and patrician. Though always well bred, there often lurked a flash of mischief in her eyes."

The flash of mischief was not lost upon readers. It was a characteristic they loved, that seemed to exemplify the American spirit of resourcefulness, adventurousness, and liberation from European traditions.

Then "inventor" of this elegant, willowy image of feminine beauty was born on September 7, 1867 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, a descendant of sturdy, hard-working New England stock.

His father was a Civil War lieutenant who dabbled as an amateur artist, and his mother was a warm-hearted spontaneous woman who lavished affection and encouragement on her five children. During a childhood illness, Gibson's father taught him how to make silhouettes of people, animals, and trees, and eventually Charles became so adept at it that when he was twelve, his parents entered his work in an exhibition that gained him his first recognition as an artist.

 


 

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