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John Gibson

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John Gibson

by Nadar
salt print, circa 1862
8 3/4 in. x 6 3/4 in. (222 mm x 171 mm)
Purchased, 1983
Primary Collection
NPG P227

Sitterback to top

  • John Gibson (1790-1866), Sculptor. Sitter in 25 portraits, Artist associated with 12 portraits.

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 69 Read entry

    'The human figure concealed under a frock coat and trousers is not a fit subject for sculpture', said Gibson, the last great British neo-classical sculptor, who lived for most of his life in Rome, and who in all his work attempted to embody abstract ideals through the human form. In this he consciously followed the Greeks, imagining that Phidias would have said of Michelangelo: 'He is a most clever and wonderful sculptor, but a barbarian'. It was imitation of Greek practice which led him to produce his 'Tinted Venus'; this caused a sensation at the International Exhibition in London in 1862, when according to Lady Eastlake:

    every young lady at dinner-table or in ballroom in that London season … felt herself called upon to tell her partner what she thought of Gibson's coloured Venus … In truth the question lay totally beyond the English public, who at best have scarcely advanced … beyond the lowest step of the aesthetic ladder.

    Nadar, arguably the greatest of French nineteenth-century photographers, and the friend of most of the leading writers and artists of his day, became one of the country's most celebrated caricaturists before drifting, with a characteristic blend of nonchalance and rashness, into photography in the mid-1850s. He opened spacious premises at 35 Boulevard des Capucines,. Paris, in 1860 and it was there that Gibson sat to him, one of few British sitters to do so, perhaps on his way to London to the International Exhibition. In that same studio the first Impressionists' exhibition was held in 1874.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 245

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1862back to top

Current affairs

The Lancashire cotton famine, a depression in the north-west textile industry brought about by the American civil war, reaches its climax. With large numbers of mills closing after Confederate blockades halted cotton supplies, many Lancashire families were in receipt of relief.

Art and science

Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard carry out the first pasteurisation tests, the process of heating liquids at 55 degree Celsius or higher for short periods of time, destroying viruses and harmful organisms such as bacteria and yeast. .
Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables is published, covering the Napoleonic wars. It traces the ex-convict Jean Valjean's character against wider questions of social and political justice, duty and love.


Otto Eduard Leopold Bismarck becomes Minister-President of Prussia, appointed by Wilhelm I after the liberal Diet refused to authorise funding for a proposed reorganisation of the army. Bismarck, intent on maintaining royal supremacy, engineers the Unification of Germany during his time in office.
John Hanning Speke claims to have found the source of the Nile, proving that the Victoria Nile issued from the north end of lake Victoria, over Ripon Falls.

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