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Artist and Law-Breaker Jim Gilbert

Daniel Goddard, Head of the Picture Department, looks at the artist and law-breaker Jim Gilbert (1933-1995) who started life in the East End of London but began painting while in prison during the 1960s. He won the Arthur Koestler Award for Prisoner Art and even painted a portrait of Dylan Thomas that was presented to Jimmy Carter.

Jim Gilbert (1933-1995): Sheila Drunk (FS33/383). Oil on canvas. 40x50cm. Estimate £80-£120.

Jim Gilbert (1933-1995): Sheila Drunk (FS33/383). Oil on canvas. 40 x 50cm. Estimate £80-£120.

The artist law-beaker, Jim Gilbert (1933-1995) grew up in the East End of London and was dishonourably discharged from National Service, aged 21. He was a big, powerful man who spent years in jail for crimes ranging from drug smuggling to robbery.

Jim Gilbert (1933-1995): A Basket of Apples at the Market (FS33/377). Oil on board.
        34.5x24.5cm. Estimate £50-£80.

Jim Gilbert (1933-1995): A Basket of Apples at the Market (FS33/377). Oil on board. 34.5x24.5cm. Estimate £50-£80.

Confined in the 1960s, he began painting as a form of therapy. Many of his figure paintings, in the well observed style of say, Peter Howson, are worked with a sombre, narrow palette and reflect, in a self-reflective and isolated way, his harsh life experiences.

In 1972, Gilbert had his first show in Bath. He received the Arthur Koestler Award for Prisoner Art and in 1973 was chosen by The Dylan Thomas Society to paint a portrait of the Thomas for presentation to US President Jimmy Carter.

His later works of Morocco and Spain, where he died, are sensitive, calm and gentle watercolours. The picture sale on 24th January 2017 has a small collection of East End oil paintings by Gilbert that depict drunkards in busy bar interiors, street scenes, market traders and local school children. The paintings have an earthy frankness and reality expressing human character from the centre of a tight knit East End community. Estimates range from £50 upwards.

Jim Gilbert (1933-1995): Coming from School (FS33/378). Oil on canvas.
        75x60cm. Estimate £100-£150.

Jim Gilbert (1933-1995): Coming from School (FS33/378). Oil on canvas. 75x60cm. Estimate £100-£150.

Tags

  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Fine Art Auctions
  • Jim Gilbert (1933-1995)

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Sale: FS26 (21 Apr 2015)
Auction Lot: 0215
Estimate: £600-£800
Realised: £1,000
A diamond and gem-set bracelet with circular links set with rows of diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies, the clasp stamped '18K'.

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Sale: FS11 (13 Jul 2011)
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A Martin Bros salt glazed stoneware 'grotesque' spoon warmer. Signed RW Martin, London & Southall 11-1879.

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Sale: FS12 (19 Oct 2011)
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Realised: £4,500
An 18ct gold presentation snuff box, inscribed 'The Cumberland Coal Association ...', Maker Edward Smith, Birmingham 1862, 177 gms.