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George Gibsone

(1762-1846) He was a talented artist famous for his amazingly lifelike paintings of shells. We have 4,408 of these paintings in our collection.

Gibsone, a very talented amateur artist, living in Tyneside was a founder member of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne in 1829 and served on the Society’s Council at least until 1834.

He is most well known for his amazingly lifelike paintings of shells. There are two unique collections of watercolour drawings of shells credited to Gibsone: A large collection of 7,260 paintings bought by public subscription for the Free Public Library of Newcastle upon Tyne (now the Newcastle Central Library) and a second collection of 4,408 in the archive collections of the Natural History Society of Northumbria presented by the Rev. E. H. Adamson.

George Gibsone – the artist

“Little is known of the life of George Gibsone. There is a brief biography in Men of Mark Twixt Tyne and Tweed (Welford, 1895), from which the following account is mostly taken. A newspaper cutting (anon. Undated) in Gateshead library indicates that the article in Welford may have been compiled by George’s grandson, Rev. B. W. Gibsone of Wolvey, Warwickshire.

George Gibsone’s father, also called George, was an architect, who married a Miss Green, possibly the daughter of a shipowner or merchant of Hull. They had three sons: George (the artist), William and John.

George the artist, born in 1762, was trained as an architect and was admitted into partnership with his father. In 1796 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Prebendary Waring and at some time in the 1790s the family moved to Newcastle.

In 1801 the two George Gibsones together with Richard Fishwick erected an iron works at Lemington to the west of Newcastle, a short-lived venture that ended when Surtees’s bank stopped payment. Gibsone then became manager of his brother John’s colour manufactory on Gateshead’s South Shore.

Elizabeth Gibsone opened a school for girls in Forth House, Newcastle in 1812, the school later moving to 5 Saville Row, which is listed in a Newcastle directory of 1827 as a “ladies’ day and boarding school”. It is not known what part, if any, George Gibsone played in the running of Elizabeth’s school, but Welford (1895) speculated that he may have taught drawing.

Retiring in 1831, George and Elizabeth subsequently lived at Belle Vue Cottage in Gateshead Low Fell.

The register of St John’s Gateshead Fell records the burial on 5 February, 1846 of Elizabeth Gibsone, aged 77. Elizabeth Gibsone’s gravestone no longer stands in the graveyard of St John’s. Welford (1895) suggested that George Gibsone died in 1846, but no entries have been located in local parish registers and it is possible that he left the district after the death of his wife.”

An extract from Jessop, L (1996) George Gibsone and his Conches. Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumbria. Volume 57 Part 1.

One of Gibsone’s Shell Paintings ©NHSN


Anon (undated) Local Worthies. 3, 144. (Volume of newspaper cuttings in Gateshead Central Library.

Welford, R (1895) Men of Mark Twixt Tyne and Tweed. London: Walter Scott.

List of the Gibsone material held in the Archives of the Natural History Society

A Catalogue of Drawings of Recent Shells, from the Cabinets of John Adamson Esqre. by George Gibsone

Manuscript catalogue covering the six volumes of watercolour drawings in order of genus. The index includes specimen number, the Latin binomen of each species, geographical origin, owner of the specimen and volume number. Bound folder, loose leaved, paginated.


Drawings of Conches by George Gibsone – Figures of Shells (c.1820)

Original watercolour paintings of mollusc shells from the collections of John Adamson, Sir John Trevelyan and Joseph Fryer. 4,408 shell paintings in six volumes, loose leaved, annotated in pencil. 277 x 210mm.


Drawings of Birds by George Gibsone (undated)

Thirty-seven watercolour drawings of foreign birds. Front cover manuscript inscription ‘C. M. Adamson from his father, June 1849. Drawings of birds by Mr George Gibsone, late of Newcastle. Presented by Miss C. Adamson 1937’. Contains the bookplate of Charles Murray Adamson’s (1820-1894). Bound, annotated in pencil with species names.