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.