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GRAHAM-GILBERT, JOHN (1794–1866), painter, was born in Glasgow in 1794. He was the son of a West India merchant named Graham, and began life in his father's counting-house, but eventually devoted himself to art in defiance of his father. In 1818 he came to London and was admitted into the schools of the Royal Academy, where in 1819 he gained the first silver medal for the best drawing from the antique, and in 1821 the gold medal for historical painting, the subject being ‘The Prodigal Son.’ He had by this time established himself in London as a portrait-painter, and he contributed fancy subjects and portraits to the exhibitions of the Royal Academy from 1820 to 1823. He then went to Italy, where he spent two years in studying the old masters, especially those of the Venetian school. He was in Rome in 1826, but returned home not later than 1827, for in that year he settled in Edinburgh, and sent a portrait to the first exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy. On the union of the associates of the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland with the Royal Scottish Academy in 1829, he became an academician. In 1834 he married Miss Gilbert of Yorkhill, a lady of large fortune, when he assumed the additional name of Gilbert, and removed to Glasgow. During the whole of his career he was a constant exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy, and between 1844 and 1864 he exhibited occasionally at the Royal Academy in London, sending in 1844 ‘The Pear-Tree Well’ and a portrait; in 1845, ‘Females at a Fountain;’ in 1846, ‘Christ in the Garden;’ in 1848, a portrait of John Gibson, R.A.; in 1853, ‘The Young Mother;’ in 1856, a full-length of Sir John Watson Gordon, R.A., P.R.S.A.; in 1857, a portrait of John Burns, M.D.; and in 1864, ‘A Roman Girl.’ On the death of Sir John Watson Gordon in 1864 he was defeated in the contest for the presidency of the Royal Scottish Academy only by the casting vote of the chairman, Charles Lees, R.S.A., which was given for Sir George Harvey. His last contribution to the Royal Scottish Academy was a portrait of Charles Lawson, lord provost of Edinburgh, exhibited in 1866. He died of heart disease at Yorkhill, his residence on the Clyde, near Glasgow, on 4 June 1866. His works display the rich warm tones of the old Venetian masters, and many of his fancy portraits of Roman girls are very beautiful, although too often repetitions of the same model. He was very successful in his portraits of ladies.

The National Gallery of Scotland possesses the following pictures by Graham-Gilbert: The full-length portrait of Sir John Watson Gordon, R.A., P.R.S.A., painted in 1856; the portrait of John Gibson, R.A., painted in 1848; ‘An Italian Nobleman;’ and ‘The Bandit's Bride,’ his last work. In the National Portrait Gallery in London is a cabinet portrait of Sir Walter Scott, which was exhibited at the Royal Institution in 1829, and presented by the artist's widow in 1867. Mrs. Graham-Gilbert, who died in 1877, also bequeathed to the Corporation Galleries of Art at Glasgow a small collection of paintings, chiefly of the Dutch school, formed by her husband, together with a number of his own pictures and studies, several of which were left unfinished. The finished works include ‘The Beggar Maid,’ ‘The First Born,’ ‘Crossing the Ford,’ ‘Going to Market,’ ‘La Penserosa,’ ‘Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene,’ ‘Christ and the Woman of Samaria,’ and two or three portraits.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, 1878; North British Daily Mail, 5 June 1866; Glasgow Herald, 5 June 1866; Scotsman, 6 June 1866; Art Journal, 1866, p. 217; Armstrong's Scottish Painters, 1888, p. 45; Exhibition Catalogues of the Royal Scottish Academy, 1827–66; Exhibition Catalogues of the Royal Academy, 1820–64; Catalogue of the National Gallery of Scotland, 1883; Catalogue of the Pictures and Sculptures in the Corporation Galleries of Art, Glasgow, 1882.]

R. E. G.