Press Releases

An Art-Accustomed Eye: John Gibbs and art

National Museum & Gallery, Cardiff
18 September 2004 – 16 January 2005

What inspires someone to collect art — money, fame, personal pleasure?
Art collector, psychologist and educationalist, Dr John Gibbs (1912–1996) believed visual art could provide a powerful and meaningful social experience and spent a lifetime establishing collections for this purpose.

The Rug Seller
© Christopher Wood (1901–1930)
The Rug Seller, Tréboul 1930

An Art-Accustomed Eye: John Gibbs and art appreciation in Wales 1945–1996 showcases works by some of the leading British Modernist artists such as Lucian Freud, John Piper and Christopher Wood, and includes Swan Song by Paul Nash which hasn't been exhibited for over half a century. This exhibition brings together for the first time works Gibbs collected privately and helped purchase for public institutions, including the National Museums & Galleries of Wales.

John Gibbs was born in 1912 into a family of leading figures in Cardiff shipping who operated the Morel and Gibbs steamship lines. After first studying Law at Cambridge, Gibbs qualified as an educational psychologist in 1940 and lectured in Psychology at University College Cardiff from 1945 until his retirement in 1977.

For John Gibbs and his wife Sheila art was central to everyday life and they purchased works for the home and gave paintings as gifts to mark family birthdays and anniversaries. Throughout their lives they were deeply involved in educational charities, theatre and the Methodist Church. Committed to the belief in the meditative power of art, John Gibbs was instrumental in the founding of the Methodist Church Collection of Modern Christian Art, focusing on religious themes, available for loan to churches, exhibitions and colleges. This collection included important works by Graham Sutherland, Eric Gill and Patrick Heron.

During the 1950s Gibbs turned his attention to contemporary Welsh art and established a significant collection of work by many of Wales' foremost artists, including Shani Rhys James, Jonah Jones, Ceri Richards and Ernest Zobole.

The exhibition is accompanied by a colour-illustrated catalogue written by art critic and co-curator, Peter Wakelin and includes a recollection by Dr John Gibbs