WILLIAM GILBERT GAUL, N. A. (American, 1855 - 1919)

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 by collectors. A large number of his paintings are in the collection of the Tennessee State Museum. Many of these paintings were exhibited in France by the French government through a loan from the Tennessee State Museum.



National Academy of Design, 1872 with L.E. Wilmarth

Art Students League, 1875

J. G. Brown in New York City



Smithsonian Institution

Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa

Birmingham Museum of Art

Vanderbilt University Collection of Fine Arts

Cheekwood Gallery of Art

First Tennessee National Corporation

The Anschutz Collection

The Warner Collection of Fine Arts

Toledo Museum of Art

Democratic Club of New York City

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Oakland Museum

C. R. Smith Collection

Peabody Institute, Baltimore

Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenberg, AZ

Yale University Art Gallery

Corcoran Gallery of Art

Georgia Museum of Art

High Museum of Art

Morris Museum of Art

Greenville Museum of Art

New York Historical Society

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK

Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX

Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, VA

West Point Museum, NY

The Sir Richardson Collection of Western Art, Fort Worth, TX

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis

George Walter Vincent Smith Museum, Springfield, MA



Associate member of the National Academy of Design, 1879

Full member of the National Academy of Design, 1882

Salmagundi Club, 1888


American Art Association, 1882 (gold medal)

Prize Fund, 1886 (gold medal)

Paris Exposition, 1889 (bronze medal)

Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 (medals)

Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901 (medal)

Appalachian Exposition, Knoxville, 1910 (gold medal)

National Academy of Design, 1875, 1877-1900, 1906-1919

Brooklyn Art Association, 1877-1886

Boston Art Club, 1881-1898

Art Institute of Chicago

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1890, 1893-1894



Dunbier (ed.), The Artists Bluebook, 34,000 North American Artists to March 2005

Eldredge and Eiland, Tales from the Easel: American Narrative Paintings from Southeastern Museums

Hughes, Artists in California: 1786-1940

Reed, The Illustrator in America 1860-2000

Troccoli, Painters and the American West: The Anschutz Collection

Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975

Curry and O’Leary, American Dreams: Paintings and Decorative Arts from the Warner Collection

Severens, Greenville County Museum of Art, The Southern Collection

National Academy of Design, Commemorative Edition 1825-1925

Holzer and Neely Jr., Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory, The Civil War

Pennington, A Southern Collection

Carr, Revisiting the White City, American Art at the 1893 World’s Fair

Hoobler, Gilbert Gaul: American Realist

Falk (ed.), The Annual Exhibition Record of the Art Institute of Chicago

Falk, Annual Exhibition Record, 1901-1950, National Academy of Design

Axelrod, Art of the Golden West

Gerdts, Art Across America (Central/South)

Trenton and Houlihan, Native Americans Five Centuries of Changing Images

Blaugrund, Paris 1889 American Artists at the Universal Exhibition

Falk, Annual Exhibition Record, 1876-1913, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Pennington, Look Away, Reality and Sentiment

Saunders, Collecting the West, The C. R. Smith Collection of Western American Art

Opitz (ed.), Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers

Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

Dawdy, Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary

Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery, Collection Illustrated Checklist

Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, Artists Active 1898-1947

Reed, The Illustrator in America, 1880-1980, A Century of Illustration

Orr-Cahill, The Art of California, Selected Works/ Oakland Museum

Cunningham, Masterpieces of the American West, Selections from the Anschutz Collection

Koke, American Lancscape/ Genre Paintings in the New York Historical Society

Dippie, Remington and Russell (plus 9 western painters)

Nygren and Myers, Of Time and Place, American Figurative Art from the Corcoran

Broder, Great Paintings of the Old American West

Getlein, The Lure of the Great West

Trumble, Representative Works of Contemporary American Artists

Sheldon, Recent Ideals of American Art

Weinberg, Book of American Figure Painters

Harmsen, American Western Art

Samuels, The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West

Flower and Murphy, American Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings (A Catalogue to 1923)

Hoopes and Moure, American Narrative Painting

Naylor, Exhibition Record 1861-1900, National Academy of Design

Saunders, “The Blanton Museum of Art, C. R. Smith,” American Art Review, December 2004

Eiland, “American Narrative Paintings,” American Art Review, February 2004

Walker, “Twentieth Century Painting in Tennessee,” American Art Review, August 2002

Earle, Biographical Sketches of American Artists

Hirschl & Adler Galleries, The American Scene, Live and Landscape of the 19th Century

McCracken, A Distinguished Collection of Western Paintings

Clark, History of the national Academy of Design 1825-1953

Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West 1850-1900

Mallett, Index of Artists International Biographical

Hartmann, A History of American Painting, Revised Edition

J B Lippincott Company, American Art From American Figure Painters

Gilbert Gaul is referenced in over 70 books and magazines