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Gilbert Holiday was born in 1879, and entered the Royal Academy Schools at a young age. From his early days, he showed great independence and enterprise in breaking away from the customary painting styles of the time, ignoring line and obtaining all his values by the application of light and shade. He also made great use of the relative play of atmosphere in influencing the tone of his subject, using relatively broad and direct strokes- whether in charcoal, pencil, oils, pastels or watercolour. Indeed, his style was a relatively impressionistic one which enabled him to capture movement and action with great success. He developed a broad and direct style to his painting, and because his draughtsmanship was superb and disciplined, impressionistic effects were not achieved at the expense of draughtsmanship or form.
Gilbert soon made a reputation for his black and white work, which first appeared in the illustrated magazines such as The Strand and The Graphic as early as 1900. He therefore began his career as a press illustrator.
Despite his press work, Gilbert also found time to paint seriously, and a number of brilliant oil sketches of farriers and of the stables behind scenes at Olympia date from his period. A picture, entitled “The Brewer’s Dray” was accepted for the Royal Academy's exhibition of 1904 when Gilbert was only 25. As soon as war was declared in August 1914, Gilbert went straightaway to the front as an unofficial war artist. After the war Gilbert was commissioned to do a great number of paintings for various Regiments and Units.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s he concentrated more on sporting subjects. He became world famous for his painting of the Grand National, The Derby, and numerous other race meetings including Goodwood, Sandown Park and Ascot, Irish Point-to-Points, polo matches, show jumping, coaching and above all hunting scenes, both English and Irish. He continued to exhibit in principal London and provincial galleries and exhibitions.
The picture above is of coursing at the Waterloo Cup circa 1920, and shows Gilbert Holiday at his absolute best. Life, colour, action, and atmosphere are all exhuding from the picture.