Details of Sculptor

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Surname Gibson Alternative Surname
First Name Benjamin Initial of Surname G
Year of Birth/Baptism 1811? Flourished
Year of Death 1851
Biographical Details The youngest brother of John Gibson, Benjamin was born near Conway and moved to Liverpool as a child. He exhibited at the Academy of the Liverpool Royal Institution between 1822 and 1830 from addresses in Lime Street, Haymarket and Duncan Street East, showing ideal works and portrait busts, including one of his mother (16). He also produced a number of monuments for churches in Liverpool and the surrounding area, including one commemorating Matthew Gregson, erected in St John’s, Liverpool, in 1829, which consisted of a draped urn above a tablet ornamented with four branches of honeysuckle (4).
In 1836 Benjamin joined John Gibson in Rome. There he lived with his elder brother and worked in his studio, ‘assisting him in his professional engagements and contributing to his domestic circle an unvarying amiability of disposition and cheerful and pleasing manners’ (GM, 1851, ii, 552). In 1840 the Gentleman’s Magazine reported that Benjamin had recently sent a copy of his brother’s group of Psyche borne by Zephyrs to Liverpool and was working on an original composition entitled Shepherd boy and dog (GM, 1840, i, 404) (8, 9). Thomas Byrth, the Rector of Wallasey, visited Gibson’s studio in the later 1840s and wrote ‘Gibson’s studio was open. The Gibson is in England, but his brother [Benjamin] was at his post, finishing a statue. He is a very unaffected manly kind of person. Several of the sculptures in the studio are intended for England’ (Byrth 1851, 228).
In 1848 the Art Union noted that he had just completed a Bacchante Listening to Pan, ‘an ingenious and pleasing composition, half life-size, for Mr. Lousanda’ (AU, 1848, 50) (11). Other works in progress in his studio at that date included a small plaster group of Minerva chasing Cupid, who runs to Venus, which was to be executed for Richard Vaughan Yates, the Liverpool ironmaster, and a bas-relief of a Wounded Amazon, another copy of a work by his brother, for Eliza Huskisson, widow of the politician William Huskisson (13, 20). Benjamin was an authority on Greek and Latin literature and translated classical texts for John Gibson, who called him ‘my classical dictionary’ (Eastlake 1870, 194). He also wrote a number of papers on Italian antiquities for the Gentleman’s Magazine and for the Society of Antiquaries and his remarks on the monuments of ancient Lycia were published by the archaeologist Sir Charles Fellows. His art and 170 antiquarian books collected in Rome were given to the Royal Liverpool Institution on his death and became the nucleus of Liverpool University Library.
Benjamin Gibson died at the Baths of Lucca on 13 August 1851, after a long, painful illness, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery there. He was, according to his obituary, 40 years old (GM, 1851, ii, 552). John Gibson executed the simple monument marking his grave, which describes him as a member of the British Archaeological Association, adding ‘He resided 14 years at Rome, where his learning, amiability and virtue made him beloved and esteemed’ (Eastlake 1870, 198). John justified not describing Benjamin as a sculptor on his headstone as ‘His health did not permit him to exercise himself in sculpture: He has not done enough to be considered a sculptor. His real hobby were his books’ (Gibson/Sandbach, Leghorn, 17 Oct 1851).
Eric Foster/ EH
Literary References: GM, 1840, i, 404; AU, 1848, 50; GM, 1851, ii, 552; Eastlake 1870, 194-9; Sampson ed, 1895 (catalogue of Gibson’s library); Gunnis 1968, 170; Grove 12, 1996, 597-9 (Greenwood -‘Gibson, John (i)’); Morris and Roberts 1998, 253-4
Archival References: Gibson/Sandbach Papers NLWMS 20567E-127
Portraits of the Sculptor: Self-portrait, stone bust, private coll, USA
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