John Gilbert (painter)

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Self-portrait, 1872.
Gilbert's Shylock After the Trial, an illustration to The Merchant of Venice.

Sir John Gilbert RA (21 July 1817 – 5 October 1897) was an English artist, illustrator and engraver.


Gilbert was born in Blackheath, Surrey,[1] and taught himself to paint. His only formal instruction was from George Lance.[2] Skilled in several media, Gilbert gained the nickname, "the Scott of painting". He was best known for the illustrations and wood-engravings he produced for the Illustrated London News.

Leslie - physicsFrancis Baily - astronomerPlayfair - UniformitarianismRutherford - NitrogenDollond - OpticsYoung - modulus etcBrown - Brownian motionGilbert - Royal Society presidentBanks - BotanistKater - measured gravity??Howard - Chemical EngineerDundonald - propellorsWilliam Allen - PharmacistHenry - Gas lawWollaston - Palladium and RhodiumHatchett - NiobiumDavy - ChemistMaudslay - modern latheBentham - machinery?Rumford - thermodynamicsMurdock - sun and planet gearRennie - Docks, canals & bridgesJessop - CanalsMylne - Blackfriars bridgeCongreve - rocketsDonkin - engineerHenry Fourdrinier - Paper making machineThomson - atomsWilliam Symington - first steam boatMiller - steam boatNasmyth - painter and scientistNasmyth2Bramah - HydraulicsTrevithickHerschel - UranusMaskelyne - Astronomer RoyalJenner - Smallpox vaccineCavendishDalton - atomsBrunel - Civil EngineerBoulton - SteamHuddart - Rope machineWatt - Steam engineTelfordCrompton - spinning machineTennant - Industrial ChemistCartwright - Power loomRonalds - Electric telegraphStanhope - InventorUse your cursor to explore (or Click icon to enlarge)
Distinguished Men of Science.[3] Use your cursor to see who is who.[4]

Gilbert was initially apprenticed to a firm of estate agents, but taught himself art by copying prints. He was unable to enter the Royal Academy Schools, but mastered watercolour, oils, and other media. From 1836 he exhibited at the Society of British Artists, and at the RA from 1838. The art patron Thomas Sheepshanks and the artist William Mulready suggested that he learn wood engraving. Starting with Punch, he moved on to the Illustrated London News. He designed an impressive number of wood-engravings (over 2000) for that publication and for The London Journal. He also produced very many illustrations for books, including nearly all the important English poets (including his illustrated Shakespeare with almost 750 drawings[5]). He became president of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1871.[5] He exhibited some 400 pictures in watercolour and oil exhibited at the various societies. In 1872 he was knighted.[5] He became an RA in 1876, in the same year as Edward John Poynter.

The Gilbert-Garret Competition for Sketching Clubs was started in 1870 at St. Martins School of Art, and named after its first president, John Gilbert.[6]

Gilbert is buried at Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries.

Illustrated books and legacy[edit]

Gilbert illustrated:

Gilbert has nearly sixty oil paintings in British national collections.[8]


  1. ^ Union List of Artist Names, retrieved 13 July 2008
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gilbert, Sir John" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Engraving after 'Men of Science Living in 1807-8', John Gilbert engraved by George Zobel and William Walker, ref. NPG 1075a, National Portrait Gallery, London, accessed February 2010
  4. ^ Smith, HM (May 1941). "Eminent men of science living in 1807-8". J. Chem. Educ. 18 (5): 203. doi:10.1021/ed018p203.
  5. ^ a b c Shakespeare Illustrated: The Artists: Sir John Gilbert, archived from the original on 10 September 2006, retrieved 13 July 2008
  6. ^ "Art School Exhibitions 2".
  7. ^ Shakespeare, William. "Songs and sonnets". London S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ 59 paintings by or after John Gilbert at the Art UK site

External links[edit]