May and Herbert Gibbs Collection

These scenes were lived in


Mother Gumnut [May] watching a
Cicadia [sic] develop from a Chrysalis
Herbert Gibbs, 1923

While living at 'The Harvey', an old convict-built homestead that was the Gibbs' first home in Western Australia, May explored the unfamiliarity of the Westralian landscape. She discovered the wonder of nature, found secret refuges in which her imagination came alive, and made friends with the animals and plants she would later use as inspiration for her gumnut stories. Remembering 'The Harvey' meant, for May, recalling her formative years and the happiest times of her life. Her youthful rendering of The Harvey Station Homestead, completed at nineteen or twenty, is influenced by English landscape traditions but also has a na´ve quality quite in keeping with her later illustration work for children.

Herbert's sparkling views of river life around Perth reflect his abiding love of the sea. On The Gadfly, a boat he built, the family made many excursions down the river to Fremantle, setting anchor at coves like the one depicted in The M.T.S., South Perth [Narrows]. Herbert creates a sensitively coloured, gently lit scene, clearly connected with the community he was part of. The vibrant colours of his Flame tree [at The Dune] equally express his sense of wonder and affinity with nature.

For Herbert and May Gibbs, studying and responding to their natural surroundings through paintings and sketches nurtured a profound love for the country they had chosen as their home. The realism apparent in many of these works is a personal response, by both father and daughter, to the unique landscapes and landmarks that shaped their lives in Western Australia. Through their work we are invited to contemplate, with fresh perspectives, the beauty within the familiar.