May and Herbert Gibbs Collection

For May and Herbert Gibbs, inspiration came from the ones they loved

[Red Roses], Herbert Gibbs, 1927

Artistic expression was almost as important to the Gibbs family as food, water and oxygen. May's mother Cecie was fond of singing, enjoyed painting, and was active in Perth theatrical circles, while her father was involved in nurturing the work of younger Perth artists as a painter, art teacher at Perth High School and member of the Wilgie Sketch Club. Perhaps no other young artist caught Herbert's attention as much as his daughter May, whose work was submitted to the Wilgie club for exhibition when she was just 12 years old. May's interest in art greatly encouraged Herbert, and the two of them often went on sketching expeditions together, times that May remembered fondly. Herbert fostered her talent and encouraged its development. Their bond is evoked in Herbert's impressionistic May Gibbs reading Dickens' Bleak House (1889). This closeness endured until Herbert's death in 1940 and, despite May's years of training in London, she always claimed that it was Herbert who was her most influential teacher.

May was always encouraged to experiment in the arts to approach all her endeavours with a sense of play. In encouraging this, Herbert and Cecie Gibbs provided May with a creative foundation from which to build a platform for her art as her technical skills developed. May's ability to record events with startling imagination and detail are here expressed in the tenderly humorous Funny Little Top Knot, pen practise on Mother (1902). While still life and landscape were the more fashionable themes of the day, May's interest in human character and form are captured in her gentle portrait Brother: Ivan Gibbs (1894).

In these affectionate works, father and daughter reveal just how significant the ties between art and life were to their identities as artists, family members and friends.