La Robe Rouge

Elizabeth 'Bessie' Dickson GIBSON

223247 Bessie Gibson La Robe Rouge
La Robe Rouge by Elizabeth 'Bessie' Dickson GIBSON


Elizabeth 'Bessie' Dickson GIBSON
La Robe Rouge
oil on canvas
100 x 81 cm

signed lower right: Bessie Gibson
© Elizabeth Dickson Gibson/Copyright Agency, 2024

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the artist
private collection, Serbia, acquired Paris Salon 1929
thence by descent
private collection, Serbia, acquired 1988
private collection, Melbourne


Salon de la Societe des Artistes Francais, Paris, 1929, no 1001


The Brisbane Courier Sat 6 Dec 1930 p. 20  ‘Art and Artists : High Honour’

“It was announced some time ago that Bessie Gibson had had the honour of having a work purchased by the French Government. In answer to a request for further particulars, Miss Gibson writes that it was acquired for the Jeu De Paume, which now houses pictures by modern foreign artists, which belong to France. It used to be in the Luxembourg Gallery, and which is now confined to the display of works by French artists. The pavilion known as the Jeu de Paume is the annex to the other gallery. To have a work purchased for the former is the highest honour that France bestows on a foreign living artist. No consideration for the selection of a work for the Louvre can be given till at least ten years after the death of an artist. The only Australian artists represented in the Jeu De Paume besides Bessie Gibson are Rupert Bunny (Victoria) and E Hilda Rix Nicholas (New South Wales), Charles Conder, who lived in Australia for about six years is also represented. Miss Gibson mentions that her portrait of Miss Somerset, the Queensland singer, had a prominent place in the Old Salon last year, where her other work, “La Robe Rouge”, was purchased by a Czecho-Slovakian banker, who is well known as a collector of pictures. She exhibited at the Autumn Salon this year.”

Further Information

Elizabeth Dickson Gibson was born in Ipswich in 1968 and undertook art studies at Brisbane Central Technical College with Godfrey Rivers. After travelling to visit relatives in Scotland in 1901-02, she was inspired to move to Paris in 1905-06 to further her studies and where she remained living until 1939. She saw early success as a miniature portraitist, including a portrait of her father in the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1905, where she went on to exhibit at least 15 times until 1923. Her diverse subjects covered portraits, landscapes, still lifes and interiors, including miniatures, formal portraits, evocative atmospheric panels influenced by the art of James McNeill Whistler and her American teacher Edwin Scott, and watercolours, in which she particularly excelled and was taught by Frances Hodgkins. Gibson exhibited regularly at the Societe des Artistes Francais and the Salon d’Automnes until 1939, winning an honourable mention at the Salon in 1926. She as one of few Australian artists recognised at the time in France and she was included in the Australian Artists in Europe exhibition in London, 1924. Gibson spent the Second World War in England before returning to Australia in 1947, living in Brisbane and exhibiting in Sydney and Melbourne. Recognition of Gibson’s work has strengthened with the ongoing reassessment of Australian women artists and reclaiming artists whose careers were more well-known in France, such as Bessie Davidson and Iso Rae.

Although the sitter of this atmospheric portrait has not been identified, the title indicates the emphasis was not on creating an exact likeness of a person, rather to create a portrait evocative of mood and with the highlight on colour, here the red dress. The palette appears to be quite limited at first glance - brownish background, creamy skin and red dress - however on closer inspection, the range of colours become apparent, even touches of vivid blue, painted with loose impressionistic brushwork.


Bessie Gibson is represented in the following collections:

National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
Art Gallery of  New South Wales
Art Gallery of South Australia
Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art
Manly Art Gallery, NSW
Queensland University of Technology
Griffith University, QLD
Brisbane Town Hall
Musee Cherbourg, France