Lady Lever Art Gallery – Artwork of the Month – October, 2006
‘Pandora’, by John Gibson
About the artwork
John Gibson was the leading neo-classical artist of the Victorian period. His work was admired and bought by society figures of the day including royalty. Gibson’s interest in classical art was not simply limited to admiring the art as it had survived but rather considered how it might have looked when first completed. As a result, Gibson pioneered polychrome or painted sculpture. This work is a fascinating example of this experiment.
Gibson was born in Conway, Wales, the son of a market gardener. His family left Wales when he was 9 years old intent on emigrating to America. En route they stopped in Liverpool and decided to stay there. When he was 14 he was apprenticed to a firm of cabinetmakers. Gibson hated the work. He managed to persuade the firm to alter his indentures so that he could work on carvings to decorate the furniture – perhaps the first evidence of his interest in three-dimensional shaping and modelling. But Gibson still felt unsettled.
Then at the age of fifteen the turning point came when he met the stonemason F. Legé who was working for the local firm Messrs Franceys. Gibson copied a head of Bacchus made by Legé. Franceys were so impressed with the work that they took Gibson on themselves. His work proved popular with local patrons including the influential William Roscoe, art collector and historian. Roscoe encouraged Gibson and allowed him to copy from his Old Master drawings. This marked the start of Gibson’s love of classical art
Free gallery talks on 6 and 24 October at 1pm.