Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/288

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Gilbert
Gilbert
276

Shakespeare, published by Routledge in monthly parts, beginning in December 1856. The whole work was issued in three volumes in 1860. A complete set of proofs of the woodcuts, engraved by the brothers Dalziel, is in the print-room at the British Museum ; they are 829 in number, including the tail-pieces to each play. They have been justly popular, and several reprints have appeared. Another writer of whom, as of Shakespeare and Scott, Gilbert was throughout his life a devoted admirer, was Cervantes. In addition to numerous pictures inspired by 'Don Quixote,' Gilbert designed a set of illustrations for an edition of the work published in 1872.

Gilbert must also be regarded as one of the pioneers of. pictorial journalism. He had contributed a few drawings to 'Punch' in its early days, including a design for the cover used in 1843, but he soon left the paper in consequence of a disagreement with the editor, Douglas Jerrold, who said that he did not want a Rubens on the staff. When Herbert Ingram founded the 'Illustrated London News' in 1842, he at once secured Gilbert's services, and from the first number published on 14 May in that year for a period of about thirty years Gilbert was the mainstay of the paper. His fertility and quickness were amazing, and it is estimated that his contributions to the paper, all drawn by himself upon the wood-block, amount to about thirty thousand. It was quite usual for the editor to send a messenger to Gilbert's house at Blackheath with a wood-block and a request for a drawing of a given subject ; Gilbert would improvise and complete in an hour or so a drawing ready for the engraver to cut in facsimile. When large subjects were required, covering two pages or more of the newspaper, Gilbert would first sketch the whole subject very slightly in ink, and then complete the drawing in sections, unscrewing each portion of the composite block of boxwood as it was finished, and passing it on to the engraver, while he continued his work on the next piece of wood, with a perfect recollection of its relation to the whole design. He was always very successful with those civic and military pageants and displays of picturesque ceremonial, which he had loved to draw in his early days.

Besides other periodicals and newspapers, the 'London Journal,' founded in 1845, used to contain for many years a regular weekly contribution by Gilbert in the shape of an illustration to the melodramatic and sensational serials which that journal published. A complete set of these woodcuts, very superior as works of art to the fiction which gave rise to them, was preserved by Gilbert himself and presented to the Guildhall library. The British Museum also possesses proofs of the woodcuts to four novels published in the 'London Journal' from 1852 to 1854. Gilbert also contributed to 'Reynolds's Miscellany.' He drew upon stone a series of 'Chronological Pictures of English History' (1842-3); thirty-three of these lithographs are his work, the remaining five that of Waterhouse Hawkins. He etched some illustrations to Carleton's 'Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry.' He was the author of 'Fragments towards the History of Stained Glass and the Sister Arts of the Middle Ages,' of which only one part was published, in 1842.

An important event in Gilbert's career was his election as an associate of the Old (now Royal) Water-colour Society, which took place on 9 Feb. 1852. He was elected a full member on 12 June 1854. From that time till his death Gilbert's connection with the society was intimate and uninterrupted. He exhibited about 270 water-colours in the society's gallery, and it was on his initiative that the first experimental exhibition of sketches was held in the winter of 1862, which led to the establishment of regular winter exhibitions. He was elected president on the retirement of Frederick Tayler [q.v.] in June 1871 ; he resigned the appointment in 1888, but was unanimously re-elected and persuaded to continue in office. On his election as president Gilbert received the honour of knighthood ; the compliment was offered and accepted in August 1871, and actually conferred on 14 March 1872. In the meanwhile Gilbert, who had resumed his contributions to the Royal Academy exhibitions in 1867, was elected an associate of the academy on 29 Jan. 1872. He exhibited in that year 'King Charles leaving Westminster Hall,' and in 1873 one of his best pictures, 'Naseby.' On 29 June 1876 he was elected an academician. 'Richard II resigning the Crown to Bolingbroke,' now at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, was his diploma picture. After that time he was rarely absent from the Royal Academy exhibitions, to which he contributed in all more than fifty works. In 1878 his 'Doge and Senators of Venice' excited much admiration at the Paris exhibition, and the artist was appointed chevalier of the legion of honour. He received similar compliments in Austria and Belgium, and was honorary member of several British and colonial societies of artists.

About 1885 Gilbert formed the resolution