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From a painting by Gilbert Gaul. 


The Quarterly Illustrator 

Vol. I. 

October, November, and December, 1893 

No. 4 


By George Parsons Lathrop. 

( With original illustrations by Gilbert Gaul.) 

Gilbert Gaul — one of the best known of our American 
illustrators as well as of painters in oil, who has gained renown 
in the treatment of two almost distinct classes of figure sub- 
jects — must have been born, one would think, with a brush 
in his hand and a pencil behind his ear, so clever is he in 
the handling of those artistic implements, and so natural to 
him seems their use. 

He began painting at a very early age ; and it was a good 
while ago that I saw the first of his pictures, which comes 
back to me as having made an impression that has not since 
been effaced. He was then already a skilled exhibitor at the 
Academy. This picture (the title of which I cannot give with certainty, though it 
may have been something like " The Color Guard") represented an episode of stub- 





The Quarterly Illustrator 

born fighting in some 
battle of the Civil 
War. A broken line 
or group of Union 
soldiers, evidently 
hard pressed, was 
seen facing — if I 
recollect rightly — 
the spectator, who 
thus occupied the 
position of the sup- 
posed attacking 
force. The attack 
was not s h o w n i n 
the picture, or at 
most was barely in- 
dicated. The defenders were 



also of the power of exciting 
If I refer now to a poem of 
mine, it is as a connecting link 
between Mr. Gaul's painting 
and his black-and-white illus- 
trative work. This poem, 
" Marthy Virginia's Hand," 
for which he made a drawing, 
appeared in The Century Mag- 
azine some three years since. 
It related an actual incident 
of the war ; how a Confederate 
soldier was found dead in a 
strip of woods on the battle- 
field of Antietam, grasping a 
letter in which his wife had 
told of the birth of a baby and 
had made a tracing: of the 

the whole subject : they only were placed before us, 
powder-stained, resolute, firing, re- 
loading, or grasping their weapons 
in expectancy of closer combat, and 
evidently determined to sell their 
lives dearly or retreat only when 
overpowered. From the presenta- 
tion of this one side of the fight, the 
other side could be realized easily 
and with great intensity. The pic- 
ture, therefore, in addition to its 
merits of drawing, painting, vivid- 
ness, and character, was a fine in- 
stance of imaginative power and 

imagination in the beholder. 



The Quarterly Illustrator 

child's hand on the paper. In 
his illustration Mr. Gaul de- 
picted the soldier lying dead 
there, neglected, amid the 
trees, near a moss) r rock ; the 
tangled rootlets and thick, 
small branches, the glints of 
sunlight, the shattered gun, 
and the leaves and twigs flung 
down about him by a shell 
which had burst there, all add- 
ing to the grimness and pathos 
for which his war scenes are 

But, as has been hinted, Mr. 
Gaul is by no means confined to this sort of theme, and is, indeed, distinguished in 
two "lines," as we sometimes call them. It is true, I think, that he has by nature 
a special penchant for these severe and sad yet highly picturesque and stirring reali- 
ties of armed combat. Yet he is also extremely apt and graphic in the delineation of 
more peaceful domestic scenes involving both earnestness and humor, brightened 
by the costume and the romance of a century's antiquity, or belonging to the 


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...• . '. .'. . 

■ ■ 

S f;;M 






The Quarterly Illustrator 



although they often had a spice of 
tempered wit. 

It is the ability of Mr. Gaul to 
portray things opposite in themselves, 
and not only to draw the contrast, 
but also to emphasize it by his treat- 
ment, which gives him a mastery of 
genre — that is, of dealing with sub- 
jects that maybe rated as exemplify- 
ing a " species," a " kind," or to take 
another word, " the characteristic." 
He knows how to seize a character 
in many of its bearings at once, and 
to give it the proper accent. 

The manner in which he uses land- 
scape detail in some of his work is 
also very effective. Evidently the 
result of careful study, and, like many 
of his touches in the elaborating of 
figures, subtile in resources of art, it 
never loses that energy and solidity 
which pervade his illustrations. See, 
for example, his drawings for " Per- 
sonal Impressions of Nicaragua," 
where he accompanied himself with 
the pen, supplying his own text. 

vigorous out-door and in-door 
reality of to-day. Seldom 
does one find the genius for 
reproducing military phases 
united with so versatile a 
faculty as Mr. Gaul's for pic- 
turing, in his illustrations, 
glimpses of daily human life 
in a variety of surroundings. 

Meissonier prided himself 
upon his military achieve- 
ments — on canvas ; but his 
military pieces had not the 
true war-like quality ; they 
merely multiplied the pol- 
ished little men of his interior 
scenes, and transferred them 
out-of-doors. Nor did his 
" interiors " contain much di- 
versity of human traits, or 
genuine feeling and humor, 



The Quarterly Illustrator 

The " Parrot Sellers at Corinto," in that little 
group of sketches, is very striking in its com- 
bination of boats, outspread bird-wings, the 
weird hooded figure of a woman standing 
upright, and the swirl and stretch of moving 
waters. So, too, one may find a good deal of 
his various skill in his pictorial contributions 
to Thomas Bailey Aldrich's " Old Portsmouth 

Mr. Gaul's work, often spirited, is always 
forcible and interesting. Moreover, while by 
no means a poseur in art or given over to any 

or school, 
he has a 
h a p p y 
faculty of 

L - 





subjects from unexpected points of view, bring- 
ing out their value at once by a bold stroke, 
often in a way which at first one would hardly 
have thought he would venture, yet a way that 
proves to be natural as well as effective.