"Needlepoint" by William Gilbert Gaul
ca. 1890

(American, 1855 - 1919)

Oil on canvas, approximately 10 x 9 inches (canvas), 14 x 13 inches (frame), signed lower right.

William Gilbert Gaul was a highly important late 19th and early 20th century American artist.  He lived many years of his life in Tennessee and is one of the earliest and best-known painters of Tennessee genre scenes.  Gaul was born March 31, 1855 in Jersey City, New Jersey, and he died in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey on December 21, 1919.  He attended the Claversack Military Academy, and it was this rudimentary military training, combined with an innate gift for dramatic composition, that garnered him much early success as an illustrator of military scenes, including oil paintings reconstructing Civil War battles scenes.  At age seventeen he moved to New York City and enrolled at the school of the National Academy of Design, where he studied under L. E. Wilmarth.  He also studied at the studio of John George Brown, the great American genre painter.  He joined the Art Students League when it opened in 1875.  In 1876 Gaul visited the American West and upon his return he exhibited military and Western pictures at the National Academy of Design and other places.  He provided numerous illustrations for Century Magazine and Harper's Magazine.  In 1879 he was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design and three years later he became the youngest full National Academician.  Also, in 1882 he won a gold medal from the American Art Association for his Civil War painting, "Holding The Line At All Hazards."  Upon the death of a maternal uncle, Gaul inherited a tract of land near Fall Creek Falls in Van Buren County, Tennessee, where he built a cabin and studio to fulfill the requirement that he reside on the property for five years.  He then divided his time between Tennessee and New York City.  In 1889, Gaul's painting, "Charging the Battery," was awarded the bronze medal at the Paris Exposition.  The next year he was appointed special agent for the federal census among the Indians in North Dakota.  Then he went to Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, the West Indies and South America.  On his return, he won medals for painting and illustration at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  Gaul was at the pinnacle of success, but increasingly the American public lost interest in his work and turned toward European developments in art.  Increasing public disfavor forced him into teaching and by 1904 he was teaching at Cumberland Female College in McMinnville, Tennessee.  By 1905, he had a studio in Nashville, Tennessee where he worked on a series of paintings published in 1907 as a portfolio called "With the Confederate Colors."  The limited success of the first portfolio resulted in the cancellation of the projected second one.  Soon thereafter Gaul left Nashville to live with his step-daughter in Charleston, South Carolina.  By 1910, he was in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, where he did World War I battle paintings right up until his death.  As has been the case with many great artists, recognition came many years after his death. Gaul is now recognized as one of America's great native-born artists.  His paintings are illustrated in many important books on history and art, and his paintings are highly sought after.

Comprehensive biographical information available upon request

1 - 2 of 2