Liverpool 1905 – London 1991
A painter, etcher, pioneer art educationalist and war artist, Evelyn Gibbs wasone of the first women to win the coveted Prix de Rome for Engraving. In 1934 she was appointed lecturer at Goldsmiths' College, the year in which her book The Teaching of Art in Schools was published. (It remained in print in Britain, Europe and USA until 1956.) Gibbs moved to Nottingham when Goldsmiths' was evacuated at the beginning of World War II. She founded the Midland Group in 1943 and in September that year received a War Artists' Advisory Committee commission.
In 1945 she married Hugh Willatt,founder of the Nottingham Playhouse and later Secretary General of the Arts Council. She lived and worked in London from 1960 and in Gozo where they had a farmhouse. In 1964 she visited Iran with the Ballet Rambert which resulted in a remarkable series of drawings and prints of Muslim women. In the 1960s she returned to printmaking; her large colour etchings of rock formations were printed at Editions Alecto, and the lithographs of Gozo were made at the Curwen Studio in 1976.
In 2000, the School of Art purchased the Evelyn Gibbs Collection from the Special Trustees of the Estate of Sir Hugh Willatt with grant aid from the National Art Collections Fund and Re:source/V&A Purchase Fund: 98 prints, drawings and watercolours representing Gibbs' career over five decades, from her portrait and figure etchings of the 1920s to the large abstract compositions drawn from aspects of the landscape of Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Corsica, Gozo and Italy. The Collection comprises many rare early states and unique impressions of the engravings. The majority of drawings and watercolours are directly related to the prints. In October 2001, the School of Art Gallery and Museum staged a touring retrospective exhibition of Gibbs' work from the Collection.
2001 Retrospective Exhibition
Exhibited: Twenty One Gallery (1931); Midland Group (1944+); Zwemmer Gallery, London (1954 & 57); Royal Academy; Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers; Leicester Gallery, London (1960); Drian Galleries, London (1970 & 72); Museum of Fine Arts, Valetta, Malta (1977); New Art Centre, London (1977); Garton & Co., London (1988); Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham (1993).
Literature: Robin Garton Evelyn Gibbs: Early Etchings 1927-1930 Garton & Co., London 1988; Pauline Lucas and Bryan Robertson Evelyn Gibbs 1905-1991 Angel Row Gallery and New Arts Work, Nottingham 1993; Pauline Lucas Evelyn Gibbs: The Nottingham Years Special Trustees of Sir Hugh Willatt, Nottingham 1998; Pauline Lucas Evelyn Gibbs: Artist and Traveller Five Leaves Press, Nottingham 2001.