Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897) was a painter and illustrator who was amongst the most popular and prolific artists of the 19th century. His body of work ranged from medieval battle scenes to enchanted forests, from historical romance to current affairs. His work reflects the cultural and social preoccupations of his time. As an illustrator, Gilbert was said to have produced more than 30,000 drawings for the Illustrated London News and illustrated hundreds of novels, volumes of poems, editions of Shakespeare and children's books.
Despite being an Associate of the Royal Academy and the Royal Watercolour Society's longest running President, Gilbert's historical subject matter and high Victorian style fell out of favour even in his own lifetime and his work has been largely forgotten. The Guildhall Art Gallery's 2011 exhibition, Sir John Gilbert: Art and Imagination in the Victorian Age, was the first major retrospective of his work. It included his large scale oil paintings, watercolours, wood-engravings and sketches.