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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

(Hubert) Donald (Macgeoch) Gilbert (1900–1961)

Sculptor born in Burcot, Worcestershire, the son of decorative sculptor Walter Gilbert (1871–1946). After Rugby School, he attended Birmingham School of Art, the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, the latter from 1922 to 1927, where he was awarded silver and bronze medals (1924 and 1925 respectively). In 1936, he modelled a portrait bust of Sir Henry Wood; part of the collection of the Royal Academy of Music, this is garlanded and displayed above the orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall each summer for the duration of the Proms season. Gilbert’s architectural sculpture includes the giant relief figure Night Thrusting Aside Day, 1936–38, for one of the corners of Collcutt & Hamp’s New Adelphi building, in Adam Street, Westminster, and the even larger relief figure of an airman with an eagle on his shoulder, Inspiration to Flight (signed and dated 1940), on the Simmonds Aerocessories building (1936–42, by Wallis, Gilbert & partners) at Brentford, overlooking the Great West Road. In the post-war years, Gilbert was commissioned to complete the programme of carved decoration on the frontage of Barkers of Kensington’s department store, begun by his father in the 1930s; the array of items he represents on the eastern staircase tower includes one of the newly available televisions, whose inventor, John Logie Baird, had sat for Gilbert in 1943 (bronze cast of the bust, 1959, in the National Portrait Gallery). Gilbert lived and worked in Kensington until c.1940 when he moved to Fittleworth, West Sussex. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1925–57, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1937.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 232–33; F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. xix, 106–07, 151–52; Mapping Sculpture; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, Liverpool, 2010, pp. 262–63; Royal Academy of Arts website; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 287–89.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022