Our fair ladies

By GREG COOK  |  July 31, 2013

An eeriness, unfamiliar from the iconic Gibson, slips into some of his drawings here. In It’s an Ill Wind That Profits Nobody, a worried couple leans on the rail of an ocean liner as an older guy laying in a deck chair in the background watches. Voyeurism is even more pronounced in The Destroyer of Dreams. An unpleasant fellow in a tuxedo stands in the shadows of a drawing room leering at a seated woman lost in what seems to be an erotic dream of a wooded lake. The scene is sinister, as if the gentleman, his hand busy in his pocket, was about to commit a crime against the unguarded lady. This air of sexual menace is unusual from Gibson who, while pointed, generally treated affairs of the sexes with a light wit.

World War I, during which Gibson headed up a government propaganda division, was his last hurrah. Model Agency: The New Girl, dated to around 1920, shows a matron presenting a tall, willowy young woman in a fur-trimmed plaid coat. The new fashion is a literal metaphor for social change — slinky flapper dresses physically liberated women from the binding corsets of the classic Gibson Girls. In Gibson’s drawing, a man at a desk, apparently in charge of the place, takes it all in with a grouchy grimace.
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