The Gibson Bequest

John Gibson bequeathed all his drawings, plasters and documents to the Royal Academy of Arts in London. He was considering his legacy as early as 1854, writing to a friend in Liverpool that he wanted to leave his work and ‘superfluous wealth’ to ‘some important good’. He eventually decided to bequeath most of the contents of his studio to the Royal Academy, following the example of Canova and Thorvaldsen who created their own museums through legacies to their home countries.

The Gibson bequest comprised marble figures and reliefs, busts, plaster casts, drawings, ephemera and an archive of correspondence along with a significant sum of money. The artist specified that the latter be used to create space for his work to be seen by the public and students.

The Academy duly opened its 'Gibson Gallery' at Burlington House in 1876. During the 1950s, however, many of the plaster casts were found to be in bad repair and the gallery was closed. Most have since been conserved and a selection of Gibson’s sculptures and plaster casts are on permanent display on the Sackler Landing while others are on long-term loan to Bodelwyddan Castle in Wales. A selection of works and documents from Gibson bequest are currently on display in the Tennant Gallery and Council Room of the Royal Academy of Arts.