WILLIAM GILBERT GAUL
Tennessee / California / Jersey City, NJ 1855-1919
Oil on Canvas Mounted on board
Signed “Gaul .” l.r.
Housed in a green lacquered wood frame
Provenance: Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside CA, bearing label verso
Museums: 24, including National Portrait Gallery, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, New York Historical Society,
Oakland Museum of California, High Museum of Art, Cheekwood Museum of Art & Botanical Garden,
Yale University Art Gallery
Periodicals: 3 (Before 2007) – American Art Review
William Gilbert Gaul, the most important painter to work in Tennessee during the 19th century, was a native of New Jersey. Gaul moved in 1881 to Van Buren County, Tennessee - located in the rugged Cumberland Mountains - where he had inherited about 5,000 acres from his uncle. Conditional to his inheritance was that he live on the property for 5 years. Prior to that time, working in NY, Gaul had become the highest-earning artist in America. To accept the terms of inheritance, he gambled, leaving all he had built behind him, and coming to rural Tennessee. He converted a barn into a studio, brought his wife, and later built a cabin on the land. During that period, he painted many natives of the region, in indigenous clothing as well as Civil War uniform. Gaul is probably most famous for his illustrations depicting the Civil War, and later World War I. He was also commissioned as a special agent of the United States census of 1890, to visit the Cheyenne and Standing Rock Indian Reservations in North Dakota. There he executed some very lyrical and haunting paintings.
Gilbert Gaul was the youngest full-time student ever admitted to the prestigious National Academy in NYC, and studied at Art Students League (NY) with well-known painter John George Brown.
The landscape depicted is probably Van Buren, Tennessee. The Jack Pines and type of architecture both typify the area surrounding and east of Nashville. The condition is excellent and provenance from The Oceanside Museum, California.
Image Size: 12" x 16”
Signature Lower Right :
Detail of Brushwork :
Gilbert Gaul in his studio
Birth place: Jersey City, NJ
Death place: NYC
Addresses: NYC; Fall Creek Falls, TN
Profession: Painter, illustrator, teacher
Studied: Claverack Military Academy; Acadámie Julian-Student; National Academy of Design, 1872, with L. E. Wilmarth;
Art Students League; J. G. Brown, in NYC; Art Students League, 1875
Exhibited: National Academy of Design, 1875 (his last name was misspelled as Gault), 1877-1900, 1906-19;
Brooklyn Art Academy, 1877-86; Boston Art Club, 1881-98; American Artists Association., 1882 (gold medal);
Prize Fund, 1886 (gold); Art Institute of Chicago; Paris Expo, 1889 (bronze medal); Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1890, 1893-94;
Columbian Expo, Chicago, 1893 (medals); Pan-American Expo, Buffalo, 1901 (medal); Appalachian Expo, Knoxville, 1910 (gold medal).
Member: Associate National Academy, 1879; National Academy, 1882; Salmagundi Club, 1888.
Work: Oakland Museum; Toledo Museum of Art; Democratic Club, NYC; Gilcrease Institute, Tulsa; Peabody Institute, Baltimore;
C. R. Smith Collection; Tennessee State Museum (See list below)
Comments: Born William Gilbert Gaul. An historical illustrator of the Civil War and Native American life in the Old West.
His best known collection of illustrations appears in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (Century, 1887). He made his first trip
West in 1876; thereafter he became increasingly fascinated with the Native American tribes and painted on Indian reservations
throughout the 1880s. During this period he kept a studio at the Tenth Street Studio building. In 1890, he took a census of the
Indians and illustrated the Report on Indians Taxed and Indians Not Taxed. Gaul became a teacher at the Cumberland Female
College in McMinnville, TN, in 1904, and in 1905 he had a studio in Nashville, where he published a portfolio by 1907.
Soon after that he went to live in Charleston, SC, and by 1910 he was in Ridgefield Park, NJ, where he did World War I
battle paintings before his death in 1919.
Sources: WW21; Hughes, Artists of California, 202; P & H Samuels, 184; Kelly, Landscape and Genre Painting in Tennessee,
1810-1985," 90-93 (w/repros.); Falk, Exh. Record Series.
C. R. Smith Collection
American Art Review, 2004 December, The Blanton Museum of Art
American Art Review, 2004 February, American Narrative
American Art Review, 2002 August,Twentieth Century Painting in Tennessee
Brandywine River Museum
Cheekwood Museum of Art & Botanical Garden
Desert Caballeros Western Museum
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
George Walter Vincent Smith Museum
Georgia Museum of Art
Greenville Museum of Art
High Museum of Art
Jack S Blanton Museum of Art
Morris Museum of Art
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
National Portrait Gallery
New York Historical Society
Oakland Museum of California
Peabody Essex Museum
The Columbus Museum-Georgia
The Corcoran Gallery of Art
The Mariners' Museum
The Sid Richardson Collection Of Western Art
Tennessee State Museum West Point Museum
Westervelt-Warner Museum Of American Art
Yale University Art Gallery
GILBERT GAUL IN TENNESSEE
Gilbert Gaul’s mother was a Tennessean. At her brother Hiram Gilbert’s death, Gilbert inherited about 5,000 acres in the
area of what is now Fall Creek Falls State Park in Van Buren County, TN, in the rugged Cumberland Mountains. He was
required to live there 5 years according to the will. He converted a barn into a studio, and later built a cabin on the land.
During that period, he painted many locals in the surrounding area, using natives of the region as his models, both in indigenous
clothing and in uniform. Some of those paintings included “Leaving Home”, chronicled in the Van Buren County Historical Journal,
Volume 2, published in 1982; "Tidings from the Front"; and "The Pickett", said to be one of his finest Civil War paintings.
Various families still report their relatives and homes, as depicted in detail in Gaul’s works.
After his 5-year resident requirement in Van Buren County, Gaul returned to New York City. The work he had done in
Tennessee became highly sought after by the editors of "Century Magazine" and "Harper's Weekly", for whom he provided covers,
frontispieces, and illustrations to articles. He was a contributor of illustrations to the Century Publishing Company's ambitious three-
volume set "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War" (1887). In 1886, the Philadelphia publisher J.B. Lippincott invited artists whom they
considered the United States' leading contemporary figure painters each to contribute an original work of art for reproduction in
"Book of American Figure Painters". Gaul, being among those so honored, depicted "John Burns at Gettysburg" for the collection.
In 1898, Gaul returned to Van Buren County with his second wife, the daughter of Admiral Halstead of the Royal Navy. Shortly
thereafter, Gaul’s work fell out of favor, forcing financial hardship upon him, and leading him to seek teaching positions for the first
time in his life. He taught at the Cumberland Female College in McMinnville, Tennessee until 1905, when he joined the faculty of the
Watkins Institute in Nashville. He made his home and studio above a dry goods store at 610-1/2 Church Street, where he also offered
classes. While there, he also illustrated about a half-dozen novels by
author Thornwell Jacobs of Nashville.
In 1907 the Southern Art Publishing Company was formed in Nashville for the purpose of publishing "With the Confederate Colors",
a series of chromolithographs illustrating still-living military persons from the Civil War. Gaul was called upon to provide twelve original
paintings for the project. Some of these had been painted years earlier, including "Holding the Line at All Hazards", the painting that
had earned him a gold medal in 1881. Others were "Leaving Home", "Waiting for Dawn", "Playing Cards Between the Lines",
"The Picket", "The Forager", and "Tidings".
Gaul, at that time, was the only southerner then part of the prestigious National Academy.
(Of further interest, Gaul was commissioned as a special agent of the United States census of 1890 to visit the Cheyenne and Standing
Rock Indian Reservations in North Dakota. There he sketched Sitting Bull only a few months before the chief's death. The portrait was
published in the official report of the census, as was "Sioux Camp", also by Gaul.)
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William Gilbert Gaul, 1855-1919, Southern Landscape