Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gibson's "It Girl" of the early 20th century

I know it must seem like I exaggerate when I say I've had another heart-stopping moment, but that's how I feel when I come across a great find. In this case: two large, dirty red cloth-covered books that caught my eye on the bottom shelf of an antique shop in Columbus, Ohio. Actually, it was the still shiny, stamped gold leaf wreath with the words "The Gibson Book" that stopped me in my tracks.

I had seen the two-volume set just once, years ago while attending an event at Peterloon, the suburban Cincinnati estate owned by Gibson's daughter, Irene, and her husband John Emery. The oversized, coffee table books were published by Charles Scribners' Sons in 1906 and contain the contents of 11 Gibson titles, that is, hundreds of drawings that are by turn satirical and charming. Each page is 11" x 17," so they open into an impressive 34" wide - too large for any of our coffee tables and, unfortunately, for my scanner. Yeah, a new scanner is on the top of my wish list.

The works are meticulously drawn with a keen eye for facial expression that goes far beyond the iconic Gibson Girl whose image swept the nation and is hip to this day. Don't believe that? Well, Urban Outfitters recently touted Gibson Girl wallpaper - with the added touch of red lipstick here and there - and it sold out. The pattern was taken from "Design for Wall Paper," above, which was originally published by Life in 1902 and has the witty subtitle: "Suitable for a Bachelor Apartment." On the next page - below - is an aspiring beauty in 1903's "The Seed of Ambition" from Collier's Weekly.


  1. Absolutely beautiful! Love the urban outfitters wall paper...the one with the red lips reminds me of Myrna Loy. Looking forward to seeing what you do with this latest find! I am amazed at the things you find! How do you know where to look?

  2. I love learning the background of these drawings. Wonder what in the world she has in her box?

  3. Gibson is one of my heroes. When I do my pen and ink work I often use him as reference. Sometime I would love to look through your Gibson finds. They have them in a local book store, but are a bit out of my price range.

  4. Richard: Love to have you come over and take a look. I'm usually at the studio Monday-Friday in the afternoons. Just give me a holler. I like nothing better than talking about finds, well, other than collaging them!