GILBERT, JOHANN CONRAD
was a fraktur artist and Lutheran schoolmaster who worked at several churches in Berks and Schuylkill Counties in Pennsylvania. He copied the work of Daniel Schumacher (c. 1728–1787), a Lutheran clergyman who decorated church records and made baptismal and confirmation certificates; he also borrowed from the work of the anonymous Sussel-Washington artist, who in turn depicted the animals and birds from the fraktur artist Henrich Otto (c. 1770–c. 1820).Gilbert’s production consists of many baptismal records; presentation frakturs showing schoolmasters holding slates; images of the Easter rabbit (the earliestAmerican drawing of this mythical creature); and religious texts. His work is distinguished by neat lines, deep colors, and the exotic attire of the angels he portrays.Firmly rooted in Pennsylvania German elementary education as practiced by the church, Gilbert’s designs sought to delight children in their baptism, in the teachings of their church, in respect for school, and in household order. At the same time his work appealed to childhood whimsy; one drawing, of bright-red horses facing eachother with a pious text, would immediately engage nearly any child. Gilbert did initial one piece, but his bold penmanship led to the artist’s identification long before theinitialed piece was discovered.Gilbert married and had a large family. To one grandson he left his family Bible with “writings therein,” undoubtedly some family frakturs. These seem to have beenlost—a real tragedy, as baptismal records for his own children were especially carefully made.
Fraktur; German American Folk Art;
Henrich Otto; Pennsylvania German Folk Art;
Religious Folk Art; Daniel Schumacher; Sussel-Washington Artist
Weiser, Frederick S. “His Deeds Followed Him: The Fraktur of John Conrad Gilbert.”
vol. 16, no. 2 (1982): 33–45