Down East 2013 ©
When a writer for the Lewiston Journal and her photographer husband visited illustrator Charles Dana Gibson at his Penobscot Bay summer home, they badly wanted to ask him about his most famous creation: the Gibson Girl. Remember the satirical illustrations of the Gibson Girl? She represented modern American beauty in the 1890s — sexual, sophisticated, dominant, progressive, stylish — and was born from the very hand casually resting on the saddle of the above hobby horse.
Unfortunately for Emmie Bailey Whitney and her husband, Herbert, Gibson had tired of talking about his progressive symbol of femininity by August of 1937. Instead he chose to speak at length about his grandchildren, the history of his childhood rocking horse, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, how he chose to build a home on 700 Acre Island off Islesboro, and why he took umbrage at being referred to as a “summer person.” “I spend more than half my time on this island,” he said in his own defense. “I feel more like a Maineite than a New Yorker.”
Sporting a three-piece suit and a day-old sunburn, Gibson led the Whitneys on a tour of his twenty-two-acre estate. Along the way he paused to briefly discuss how he went from selling his first drawing to Life magazine for four dollars to having his art hung in London’s Tate Gallery and the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C. He quickly caught himself, however, and changed topics: “But why talk about that?” Gibson said. “It can all be found in my biography, written by Fairfax Downey. Come on down and look at my boats.” — Will Bleakley
Photo: Collections of Maine Historical Society