May and Herbert Gibbs Collection

May put her brothers to good use

Brother: Ivan Gibbs 1894

May had three brothers, Bertie, Ivan and Harold. Ivan Gibbs was four years younger than May, and was aged thirteen at the time of this portrait. Born in 1881 during the family's voyage from England to Australia, Ivan later described himself as the 'Wreck of the Hesperus', a reference to the ship they had voyaged on. Like his father, Ivan joined the Lands Department and then worked for Elders before enlisting in the Australian army during World War I. This work is also one of May's first oil paintings. Encouraged by her father to explore different media, May aggressively 'attacked oils…painting anything at all'. While the romanticism of the work is augmented by May's eye for detail, capturing Ivan's delicate features and richly textured hair, she also reveals a modernist impulse; a desire to find creative inspiration from the life she observed around her.