Evelyn Gibbs in Peace and Wartime
9 July – 9 October 2016
Co-curated by Pauline Lucas, executor of Evelyn Gibbs estate
Evelyn Gibbs (1905 – 1991) was a printmaker, painter and educationalist, who held a significant position in the artistic life of this City. She was evacuated from London to Nottingham with her students from Goldsmiths College at the outbreak of the Second World War. During her time in Nottingham she founded the Nottingham Regional Designers Group in 1943 – later renamed the Midland Group of Artists – and remained its guiding force until she returned to London in 1960. On a national scale Gibbs is remembered for her work in art education due to her influential book The Teaching of Art in Schools (1934).
This exhibition focuses on two key stages of Gibbs’ life and career. During her years studying at the Royal College of Art, London, and later in Rome, she produced the most delicate etchings and engravings of figures in timeless settings. But in the 1940s, as she was selected as one of the women War Artists charged with recording women’s work on the ‘Homefront’, her style changed in response to the challenges of this difficult time; the gracefulness of the etching needle gives way to the energetic, harsher lines of pen and charcoal as we see strong portrayals of figures dwarfed by the machinery of war. This includes a series of drawings made at Nottingham’s Raleigh bicycle factory, which at the time was temporarily appropriated by the Ministry of Defence for the manufacture of munitions.
In 1945 Evelyn Gibbs married Nottingham solicitor Hugh Willatt, a champion of the arts and key motivator in building Nottingham Playhouse theatre. In 1946 Gibbs painted the murals depicting the Annunciation at St. Martin’s Church, Bilborough.
With thanks to Hilary Wheat, Natasha Scullion and St. Martin’s Church, Bilborough