Steeped in the influence of Charles Baudelaire’s The Painter of Modern Life, Victor-Gabriel Gilbert drew his subject matter from the contemporary life of French cities. Gilbert received his training in the studios of Charles Busson (1822-1908), Emil Adan (1839-1937), and Eugène Levasseur (b. 1822). His formation as an artist, however, benefited enormously from the presence of the Impressionists in Paris. While his studio training emphasized landscapes and portraits, in the Impressionists, Gilbert found exciting new subject matter and painting technique. His own output followed suit, combining the more academic nature of his education with an Impressionist emphasis on modern life.
Gilbert made his debut at the Paris Salon in 1873 with the paintings At the Dance and Preparations for Dinner. He was a regular exhibitor at the Salon, winning gold medals in 1889 and 1890. Other awards include a silver medal in 1880 with the Artistes Français and the 1926 Bonnat Prize. Recognized for his talents rather late in life, Gilbert was awarded memberships in the French Watercolor Club as well as the position of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in 1897.
Gilbert’s favorite subjects were similar to those of the Impressionists. The picturesque open-air markets of French cities, with their stalls brimming over with food and flowers, fascinated the artist. He reveled in the liveliness of these places and focused on their denizens, the poultry and flower vendors, with a characteristic realism. Commonly depicted by Gilbert were the patrons of the markets—elegant ladies dressed in yellow and pink pastels with long veil-like headpieces. He showed them examining colorful flowers and fruits presented to them by merchants in less elegant garb of blues and grays. Many times he used the same easily recognizable models in these works.
The vibrant light in Gilbert’s canvases indicates his understanding of contemporary color theory. The artist manipulated primary colors, drawing them straight out of the tube and mixing them with one another. Gilbert’s experimental combinations provided him with a palette considered more complicated and versatile than that of many of his Parisian contemporaries, thus, placing him on a level equal with the master colorists.
Le prix Bonnat, 1926
Chevalier, Légion d’honneur, 1897
Salon of Paris, France, 1873, 1874, 1889
Musée de Bayeux, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon, France
Chateau de Dieppe, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Liége, France
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, France
Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, France