George Gibbs Pastel

This large work, 39 7/8” x 18,” came in with fire and water damage, as well as acid decomposition and a substantial amount of dirt. Unfortunately, this is a pastel work, and pastels are very susceptible to water; this led to the streaks in the sky portion. We deacidified the work through several chemical solutions, and while it was still wet and pliable, we were able to flatten the work where ripples had formed, another result of water damage. A substantial amount of pastel-replacing was then undertaken to reconsitute this large work.

George Gibbs (1815-1873) was an ethnographer, mapmaker, geologist, historian, attorney, explorer, artist, and administrator. Gibbs learned the rudiments of painting at the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts. With a Harvard law degree, he would open a practice, albeit an uninspired one. The lure of the gold rush was enough of a reason for him to close it, and, joining the Mounted Riflemen, he sought his adventures west of the Mississippi.

Located primarily in Oregon and Washington, Gibbs lexicographically recorded Native American vocabularies, and made notes and interpretations during treaties negotiations he would conduct  between Indian tribes and federal and state governments; these notes and interpretations are still used to this day.

Poor health, and rheumatic gout, kept Gibbs from the U.S. Army during the Civil War, though he did volunteer. The later years of his life were spent in Washington D.C. where his extensive knowledge of the great northwest was employed by the Smithsonian Institution. It was also in these later, quiet years, that Gibbs was able to sit down and reflect on all of his travels, and capture them with his wonderful pastels.

Gibbs artwork is a rare find in the marketplace, as he donated the majority of his sketches to the Smithsonian Institution. The Peabody Museum at Harvard, and the National Park Service at Fort Vancouver, also contains a small collection.

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5 responses

  1. Poor pretty artwork, looking forward for you to restore it as closer as it can be.

  2. Hi, I think we might have a Gibbs pastel of Indians and teepees. Very large piece, with signature bottom right. Some damage to edges of the piece. Not sure its worth having restored. Its a beautiful painting, but the thin board on which it was painted is very friable. Came to this piece as part of a large, primarily book auction in the late “60s in Cincinnati. Any thoughts? (Private owner, not a dealer, not versed in these matters). thank you, Shawn Hadley

    • Hi Shawn,

      There are actually two G. Gibbs that made paintings. One that we shared in this blog post is very rare and valuable. However, we figured it out later. This artist was primarily a scientist that took part in early expeditions to California and documented the language of the original American tribes that lived there. He began painting or making these pastels later in his life. They are rare and remarkable and very valuable. They are worth caring for indeed.

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