"I Have Always Found Pleasure in Painting": Gibeon Elden Bradbury (1833-1904)
July 18th 2020 - Spring 2021
The Saco Museum presents "I Have Always Found Much Pleasure in Painting": Gibeon Elden Bradbury (1833-1904) featuring more than eighty paintings, studies, and sketches by Maine artist Gibeon Bradbury that capture the quiet beauty of the Saco River Valley during the late 19th century. A native of Salmon Falls in Buxton, Maine, Gibeon Bradbury lived most of his life in this small village. At age eighteen, he began his training as an ornamental painter of wagons, sleighs, and carriages--a trade he continued to practice throughout his life in order to help make ends meet for his family. However, he always longed to be considered an artist rather than a craftsman. He loved to wander along the banks of the Saco River where he filled his sketchbooks with landscape drawings and detailed animal and botanical studies. At home in his studio, he transformed those sketches into portraits of his world, executed with the skill of a talented draftsman. Many of his works are small intimate depictions of the places, flora, and fauna that he loved.
Bradbury exhibited his paintings at local art expositions and local and county fairs, where he won several awards. He also sold his works through local dealers in Biddeford, Saco, and Portland, as well as shipping paintings farther afield to Ohio and California. Many of his landscapes and portraits were painted for friends and neighbors in Buxton and Hollis, some of whom paid him in eggs, apples, and other produce. It was a challenge for him to make a living throughout his life.
Gibeon Bradbury was also a dedicated diarist, keeping daily journals for more than fifty years. Countless entries over the years record his journeys through the local woods and his musings on nature and art, as well as the daily happenings in a small Maine village. A eulogy to Bradbury delivered after his death in 1904 sums up the man well: "Nature must have claimed him as its own, for he was wedded to its clear skies, the natural beauty and variety of its flowers, the forest and shining streams, and here was his ideal home."