The First Appearance of Gipsies in France, 15th Century
As an illustrator to literary texts, John Gilbert (1817 - 1897) is principally remembered for his designs for Longfellow’s Poetical Works (1854, 1855) and for an illustrated complete works of Shakespeare (1856–58). His career as a watercolourist is closely associated with the Old Water-Colour Society, of which association he was a stalwart. He was elected an associate in 1852 and a member in 1854. In 1873 he was elected president of the Society, in 1881 obtaining permission for it to be styled the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours. He was represented in its summer exhibitions every year from 1852 until his death, and most years at the winter exhibitions intended for sketches and more informal works, which were instituted in 1862. On occasions he made oil and watercolour versions of the same subject. The historic titles of artworks represent attitudes of the time and can use language that is not appropriate today. The title of this watercolour uses the word ‘gipsies’, a term historically used to describe people of Romani heritage. Romani are people who originated from north-western India. They moved into the Middle East and then travelled westwards to Europe. Romani people are assumed to have a travelling way of life, although many in Europe do not. Despite being widely used, including by people of Romani origin, ‘gipsy’ can have disparaging associations and be considered a race-based slur.