In 1965, Lionel Gilbert left illustration behind to explore fine art painting.
As it says in the description of a 2010 show of Gilbert's work at the Carrie Haddad Gallery, "... no longer using the paint to tell stories, Gilbert began to explore what the paint itself—its materiality, color—can reveal, independent of its descriptive capacity. The works here... call to mind Matisse, Braque, and Leger in their cubist sensibility and handling of space."
I'm reminded of the illustrators of the Cooper Studio who, with the help of Murray Tinkelman, began falling under painter Reuben Tam's Abstract Expressionist spell at the very end of the 1950s. Here is Lionel Gilbert, another illustrator working through a period of tremendous upheaval in the commercial art business, embracing the change in a way that obviously made the most sense to him.
From Gilbert's bio at the Carrie Haddad Gallery: "As well as an artist, he was also a dedicated teacher, and taught painting throughout his career. He taught art at the 92nd Street Y Art Center, from 1967 to 2002, and offered classes for seniors since 1998"
Lionel Gilbert died in 2005. If there remains some mystery around his career as a professional illustrator, it's matched in my mind by his death notice, which was published in the New York Times and paid for not by his family, but by the 92nd Street Y Art Center, where he taught...
I'm encouraged that the notice mentions that Gilbert at least had some surviving family. Hopefully someone who knew him well will find this series of post some day and share further details about the illustration career of this talented artist.
* Many thanks to the Carrie Haddad Gallery for allowing me to quote some biographical information from their website and make use of some of Lionel Gilbert's artwork from their collection.
The gallery next exhibit, entitled "Under the Influence (of the New York School)", features Gilbert's abstract figuratives from the 60s. You can read the press release at this link.