Sir John Gilbert was born in Blackheath, London; the son of a land and estate agent. He had some lessons from George Lance, but was largely self-taught. During his career he showed 20 works at the Society of Artists, 40 at the British Institution, 51 at the Royal Academy and 260 at the Old Watercolour Society, becoming a member of the latter in 1854 and President in 1871. He was knighted in 1872 and gained membership of the Royal Academy in 1876. Although he preferred history painting, he was primarily an illustrator. He illustrated works by English poets, as well as religious or literary works. He also designed 829 plates for an edition of Shakespeare (published 1860) and produced some 30,000 drawings for the ‘Illustrated London News’.
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