Charles Gibson

Charles Gibson’s Gibson Girl debuted in 1890 and lasted 20 years. She expressed the model of the times. She was courageous, self-assured, tall and pretty. She took up golf, rode bicycles, even wore short skirts (called “golf” skirts). She matched step-for-step her European sisters.
She usually appeared in the pages of Life. She ended up on living room walls, ashtrays, spoons, wallpaper, chairs, tabletops, umbrella stands, etc. A popular song of 1906 was “Why do they call me a Gibson Girl?” while a play of 1890s was “A Night With Gibson.”
Gibson started as a kid making hundreds of silhouettes. Studied at the Art Students’ League. Studied briefly with Frederic Remington, who soon took off for the West. Gibson made the rounds of all the magazines, but kept getting rejected. He was signed by three-year old Life magazine, which was trying to compete against the popular humor publications, Puck and Judge. His income grew. Then came the Gibson Girl with her hair in a chignon.
He was on the “A” list for NY parties. All the models and socialites came by his studio. Married one debutante in 1895. They were very urbane and stylish. In his drawings he crusaded against Anglophile wave sweeping the nation. Drew Mr. Pipp, an elderly gentleman who watched life.
Gibson got $100,000 for 100 black and white line drawings in 1900 for Collier’s, sparking a public battle with his long-time magazine, Life. The Gibson Girl was it. This was thanks to innovations in printing that allowed for high-quality reproductions of line drawings in magazines. Everybody tried to copy Gibson’s pen and ink style.
When Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany invaded Belgium, Gibson did a ton of work in 1916 & 17 supporting western Europe. When U.S. entered the war in 1917, he and others did work for free. The original group included James M. Flagg, C.B. Falls, Jack Sheridan. Falls, Leyendecker, Christy and other soon joined them, contributing work that encouraged citizens to enlist, buy bonds and defend their European kin. Gibson was most lauded artist when war ended.
After the war, Gibson led a consortium that bought Life, but that was a disaster. Gibson Girl was out, John Held’s flapper was in. He basically retired to Maine, where he became an oil painter at 65. Made a wonderful transition and painted landscapes and portraits that were very well received. Painted for 15 more years, the Gibson Girl becoming a faded memory to all.