Friday, November 5, 2010

Gibson Girls

An illustration showing a man and woman, both well-dressed, sitting on either end of a sofa and looking away from each other. The woman has her hands in her lap and the man's arms are crossed. To the right of the page, a well-dressed older man carrying a tray of glasses stands just inside the room, looking at them. The illustration is captioned "A little story. By a sleeve."This original 1896 edition of Pictures of People by Charles Dana Gibson is currently on display in the Hood Museum's Space for Dialogue, in an exhibition curated by Sarah Peterson '10.  Sarah describes the compilation of Gibson's early pen and ink drawings as follows:

The book mainly focuses upon the Gibson Girl and her exploits while finding a mate: It was of principle importance to the Gibson Girl to secure a husband while she was young and beautiful. Therefore many of Gibson’s drawings explore the themes of love and courtship. This focus is present in “A Little Story: By a Sleeve.” The Gibson Girl in this image circa 1896 is wearing the most fashionable dress of her day. Interestingly, it is her garment that is central to the action of the scene. In the 1890’s the sleeves of dresses became increasingly large, until in the mid-1890’s they reached balloon-like proportions. Here, the Gibson Girl’s dress serves as evidence that the young man and woman were sitting inappropriately close to one another just before the servant arrived.

The Gibson Man was made by Charles Dana Gibson to accompany his leading female in her search for love. He is strong chinned, slim, and attractive, yet at times rendered powerless by the mystifying allure of the young Gibson Girl. However, ultimately he will succeed in his pursuit of the free and independent lady and she will in the end accept marriage and motherhood or be doomed to the fate of becoming an old maid.

You can see the Gibson Girl on display with the rest of Sarah's exhibit at the Hood Museum through January, 2011. After that, ask for Rauner Illus G357pi.

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