Troubled abstraction: Whiteness in Charles Dana Gibson and George du Maurier

Jennifer A. Greenhill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This essay explores the artistic rivalry between George Du Maurier and Charles Dana Gibson, who were repeatedly compared by critics in Britain and the United States. Both illustrators developed a visual - and in Du Maurier's case, a literary - rhetoric associating whiteness with evolutionary superiority. I consider the social and aesthetic signifi cance of this rhetoric within the realm of black-and-white illustration, where whiteness is typically taken for granted as a natural component of the medium. For both illustrators, whiteness as a social value was critically bound up in, and constructed through, an investment in that term's aesthetic potential. I argue that Gibson uses whiteness as an abstract value both to reinforce (and visually formulate) his social attitudes and to distance himself from Du Maurier as the ostensibly more advanced, more evolved artist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)732-753
Number of pages22
JournalArt History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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