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Robert Gilbert

Theme/Style – American Scene, Regionalism, Figurative Art

Media – Oils

Artistic Focus – One of many American artists forced to give up his career during the Depression – and twice more during his lifetime – Robert Gilbert nonetheless is remembered as an outstanding American Scene and Regionalist artist. Gilbert's work is readily recognized by its figures created in the bold, simplified tubular forms characteristic of 1930s art, and for its strong design and composition in which, typically, one or more figures dominate the foreground while the background takes on secondary importance.

Career Highlights –

• During the Depression, Robert Gilbert's work for the Santa Ana Gas Company gave him an opportunity to observe the local scene. He used that material as the basis for a number of noteworthy figural works – most often depicting either female figures in repose against agricultural backgrounds, or male figures posed in front of semi-abstract industrial scenes.
• Some of Gilbert's 1930s canvases were studies of the heads of girls, offering a raw energy emblematic of the Mexican aesthetic that pervaded Southern California art at the time.
• Although his work during the Depression reflected the lives of local workers, Robert Gilbert was not a Social Realist – his work simply depicted reality without condemning big business.
• Later in life, Gilbert again left his art career, running a gift shop, working as an architectural designer, and working for the Fluor Corporation.
• With his retirement came another opportunity to paint, and Gilbert returned once more to his favorite genres: figures and portraits.