This remarkable archive of glass plate negatives and photographs captures the changing face of West Cornwall over the period 1870 to 1905.
Gibson & Sons Photographic Archive, 1870-1905
© Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance / Gibson Archive. Purchased in 2016 with funding from ACE / V&A Purchase Grant Fund, The Art Fund, the Friends of Penlee House and the Cornwall Heritage Trust.
- Paper, glass, wood
- plates: 22 x 16.5 cm, photographs: 20 x 15 cm
- Art Fund grant:
- £8,450 ( Total: £31,366)
- Acquired in:
- David Lay, The Penzance Auction House
John Gibson (1827-1920), a native of the Scilly Isles, gave up seafaring during the 1860s to set up business as a professional photographer. By 1877 he had two studios, one on St Marys and another in Penzance. His sons Alexander and Herbert both joined the family business. Gibson & Sons established a reputation for their pictures of shipwrecks off the Isles of Scilly, with Alexander also developing an interest in photographing antiquities and archaeological sites. It is believed that the majority of pictures in this archive were taken by Alexander. Many of the pictures in the collection show ancient crosses, quoits and other archaeological sites. Of particular interest are the photographs of the fishing community, which have a close affinity with the social realist paintings of the Newlyn School. Among them are three studio portraits of fishwives who regularly sat for these local artists. Acquisition of the archive will now allow research into the connections between the Gibsons and the Newlyn art colony, as well as providing visual context for many other items in the museums collection.
The Gibson family; by descent.
Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £4.50)
1 Apr – 31 Oct
Daily, 10am - 5pm
1 Nov – 31 Mar
Daily, 10am – 4.30pm
Last admission 30 mins before closing
Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan