Sir John Gilbert: Art and Imagination in the Victorian Age
29 April â€“ 29 August 2011
This exhibition of the work of 19th-century painter and illustrator Sir John Gilbert follows on from a number of successful exhibitions at the Guildhall Gallery on the Victorian artistic legacy.
It is the first major retrospective of the artist's life and work since the 50s, and will bring together large historical paintings, modest and rarely seen landscape watercolours, illustrated novels and children's books, newspaper illustrations and ephemera from both public and private sources.Gilbert was amongst the most popular and prolific artists of the Victorian period. From medieval battle scenes and enchanted forests to contemporary regional landscapes and current affairs, his work reflects the cultural and social preoccupations of his time.A major part of the display will be devoted to a technical exploration of the way in which Gilbert worked, drawing on his own records and underpinned by recent analysis of paintings and watercolours undertaken by conservation scientists at University College London, Tate and the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge.
This exhibition offers the first airing of Gilbert's Ego et Rex Meus since 2002. The large-scale painting, one of Gilbert's many renderings of scenes from Shakespeare's Henry VIII, shows the king in conversation with Cardinal Wolsey. Part of the Guildhall Art Gallery's permanent collection, it has recently undergone conservation treatment of its original frame.Until his downfall, Cardinal Wolsey was one of Henry VIII's most trusted advisors. 'Ego et Rex Meus' was an expression attributed to Wolsey and used to prove that he considered his power to be above that of the King. The charge rested on translating the Latin as 'I and my King' rather than 'My King and I'.The Fair St George is the largest of Gilbert's paintings in the Guildhall Gallery's collection, measuring 244 by 152 cm. It also has not been on display since 2002. The subject appears to be purely imaginative rather than based on text or history like many of his large paintings. He was a keen painter of knights and chivalric themes, and studied various kinds of armour, livery and military paraphernalia.