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Gibson, William Pettigrew

    Full Name: Gibson, William Pettigrew

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1902

    Date Died: 1960

    Place Born: Glasgow, Scotland, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Career(s): curators


    Keeper of the National Gallery, London, 1940-1960. Gibson was son of Edwin Arthur Gibson, a physician, and Ellen Shaw Pettigrew (Gibson). Gibson was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating with a degree natural sciences and physiology in 1924 with the intention of going into medicine. He was raised a Roman Catholic. At Christ Church, he met Humfry Payne, later director of the British School at Athens, who remained friends with Gibson all of Payne’s short life and who convinced Gibson to student art history rather than medicine. Gibson secured the position as an assistant keeper of the Wallace Collection, London, in 1927. In 1936 was named a reader in the history of art at the University of London and jointly appointed deputy director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. This brought him to the attention of Kenneth Clark who, in 1939 appointed him keeper of the National Gallery. He married Christina Pamela Ogilvy in 1940, whose sister, Kyth’ Caroline Ogilvy (b. 1902), was the wife of Philip Hendy, Gibson’s predecessor at the Wallace Collection, and later his immediate superior when Hendy was director at the National Gallery. Gibson lectured at the Wallace Collection, some of his lectures published in 1930. In 1935 he issued the catalog of miniatures and illuminations for the Collection. During World War II, he spent long periods on duty at the National Gallery, London, watching for incendiary bombs (the collection had been moved to Wales for safekeeping). Gibson moved to Wyddiall Hall in north Hertfordshire after World War II, where he and his wife lived a comfortable but Spartan life without electricity or radio. Gibson died unexpectedly after being conveyed at University College Hospital, London, at age 58. He was succeeded at the Gallery by Martin Davies. Gibson specialized in eighteenth-century French art, publishing only a few articles, of which included those for the Vasari Society, Apollo and the Burlington Magazine.

    Selected Bibliography

    “Nicholas Egon: an Appreciation.” Apollo 55 (April 1952):. 110-11; “Paul Nash Memorial Exhibition at Tate Gallery.” The Burlington Magazine 90 (April 1948): 118-19; “On Watteau’s Draughtsmanship.” Apollo 12 (October 1930): 275-9; “Italian drawings at Burlington House.” Apollo 11 (March 1930): 171-8; “Renaissance Drawings at Burlington House.” Apollo 11 (January 1930): 24-9; Three Lectures upon French Painting. London: Hertford House, 1930; Barbara Hepworth: Sculptress. London: Faber and Faber, 1946; Wallace Collection Catalogues: Miniatures and Illuminations. London: Wallace Collection, 1935.


    Baker, Anne Pimlott, and Shaw, James Byam. “William Pettigrew Gibson.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; “Mr. W. P. Gibson: Keeper of the National Gallery.” The Times (London) April 23, 1960, p. 8; J. B. S. [John Byam Shaw] The Burlington Magazine 102 (September 1960): 414.


    "Gibson, William Pettigrew." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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