Who was May Gibbs?
Cecilia May Gibbs was born in Sydenham, Kent, England on 17 January 1877. She was the only daughter of Herbert William Gibbs (1852-1940), public servant and artist, and his wife Cecilia Rogers.
May migrated to Australia with her family in 1881, at just four years of age. She grew up in a creative household, with her parents actively involved in local arts and theatre groups. Demonstrating artistic talent from an early age, Gibbs had a particular interest in botanical drawings. She won first prize at the age of 15 for her entry in the West Australian wildflowers’ exhibition and continued to receive accolades for her work throughout the 1890s.
Between 1900 and 1913 she travelled overseas to study art in England, becoming proficient in various styles of artwork, including botanical illustrations, life drawing and caricature.
Gibbs returned from London a full-time, professionally trained illustrator. In 1913, she settled in Neutral Bay and was kept busy with commissions from publishers. With the onset of the First World War, May Gibbs began producing Australian-themed bookmarks, postcards and calendars which were popular to send to Australian troops overseas. In 1918, the world was introduced to Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the rest, as they say, is history.
May Gibbs died in 1969 at the age of 92.