"Gibson Girl"cover for "Life" magazine (1906): rare, beautifully framed illustration


Cover: Life Magazine             
    By Charles Dana Gibson
    July 19, 1906 Issue

Image Size: H 10.75” x W 8.75”
    Matted & Framed:  H 17.75” x W 15.75”
    Framed Price: $265.00  
    Whiteglove packaging and shipping
       approximately $32.00

This Life cover features another variation of Charles Dana Gibson’s alluring “Gibson Girl.”

She is not only the personification of stylish beauty. She is, according to Susan Meyer, “the independent spirit.” Gallant, courageous, self-reliant, she was “equally self-assured at a cotillion, on the seat of a bicycle, or in a canoe.” [America's Great Illustrators. Galahad Books. 1978. 208.] “An entire generation fell under the sway of her charms,” Prof. Meyer tells us. This alluring person left “an indelible imprint on the American character.”

How did CDG produce this phenomenon? Fairfax Downey, who wrote the only biography of Charles Dana Gibson i(n 1936), characterized his narrative as “A Portrait of an Era.” The era was of course the period in which CDG became famous. These years overlapped the period when the nation industrialized and corporations nationalized their markets. As they were doing these things, they were also developing the marketing programs that transformed the American people into consumers.

Mark Twain called this period "the Gilded Age." During the Gilded Age the rich were getting horribly rich and spent gobs of money on things like yachts and touring cars with chauffeurs, and added ballrooms to their mansions. When he was not drawing Gibson Girls, Charles Dana Gibson drew cartoons making fun of them.

Why was the Gibson Girl so influential and significant?

The west was being tamed and settled; the nation was being transformed into an integrated system of markets and consumers; and the privileged few were making and squandering fortunes. As these fascinating events were occurring, the people who made and bought things in America, people who superintend each step of in the chain of production and distribution, looked up at the people above them on the social ladder. Someday, many of these people thought, I will be where they are.

During the Gilded Age, men and women alike were industrious, ambitious enterprisers. They interpreted Charles Dana Gibson’s caricature as the embodiment of things they wanted for themselves. Each time they saw Gibson's girl they remembered the wonderful things the future held for them. 

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