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Victor Gabriel Gilbert (French, 1847-1933)
Also known as: Gilbert, Victor-GabrielBiography:
Victor-Gabriel Gilbert, a painter of Parisian market scenes, was a key figure in later nineteenth-century French art who straddled the French Realist and Impressionist movements. Born in Paris on the eve of the 1848 "February" Revolution, Gilbert grew up in a city with a highly-charged political atmosphere of working-class assertion which, in fascinating ways, affected his art. Indeed, even the most conservative bastion of the French art community, the annual Salon exhibition system, was also affected by the populist call for reform by allowing more artists to introduce and exhibit new styles and subjects in their work. Gilbert eventually benefitted artistically from this shift as well.
Gilbert showed an early natural ability for drawing, but due to his parents' strained financial circumstances, he was unable to afford tuition at the École des Beaux-Arts and had to work as an artisan. From the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to Eugène Adam, a painter-decorator, while at night he took lessons with Pierre Levasseur at the École de la Ville de Paris, which was the only formal art training he ever received. By developing artistically outside the École des Beaux-Arts system, Gilbert ended up drawing inspiration from the urban world around him and also grasping in an intuitive way the principles of good and pleasing design that would create attractive, commercially appealing imagery. Moreover, free from the constraints of a more rigid formal education, he was free to develop his own approach to even more radical styles like Realism. For instance, instead of following the lead of Realism's major proponents such as Courbet and Millet, who focused upon rural peasant life, Gilbert chose to paint the hard-working city-dwellers who sold fish and vegetables and flowers in the open air markets of Paris. He became the premier painter of Les Halles, an area in Paris that still exists today but which then was a center for street vendors and markets.
Gilbert had created a niche for himself with market scenes and for his work in the realistic depiction of the aspects of Parisian life, becoming popular not only with the public but also with the State which bought examples of his work from the Salons. As his style progressed, Gilbert began to embrace the higher-keyed palette of the Impressionists as well as their bourgeois subject matter. Gilbert became a close friend of Pierre Martin, who owned an art shop on the rue Lafitte, and who was an important supporter of the Impressionist movement. As Martin had secured paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Gauguin, he also acquired works by Victor Gilbert. It was through this support and recognition that Gilbert was able to give up his work as a decorator and devote his time to painting the daily street markets, vendors, cafe scenes and views of Paris. In 1987, he was awarded a knighthood of the Legiond'honneur. Today his paintings are in many distinguished private and public collections including museums in Bayeux, Besançon, Bordeaux, Dieppe, Le Havre, Lille, Liége, Nice, Paris, and Strasbourg.
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