This August marks the 300th anniversary of the death of one of the UK’s best skilled, and certainly best-known carvers – Grinling Gibbons.

(c) Bonhams

Grinling Gibbons was born in Rotterdam but moved to England in the 1660s. After his arrival in London, Gibbons quickly attracted attention for the quality of his wood carving and was given his first royal commission in 1675, when hired by Charles II to produce decorative carving for Windsor Castle. Over the next 25 years, he completed important commissions for Whitehall Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Blenheim Palace. In 1693 he was appointed as master sculptor and carver in wood by King William III.

Gibbons pioneered a highly distinctive style, carving in very high relief with exceptional naturalistic detail. His trademark was cascades of fruit, leaves, flowers, foliage, fish, and birds, and his works are today represented in the Royal Collection and Historic Royal Palaces, as well as across museums, country houses and churches.

Mostly wood, but also stone.

(c) Grinling Gibbons Society

To mark the tricentenary, there are a number of events being planned by the very recently set up Grinling Gibbons Society, and one has been confirmed – an exhibition in London running through August.

The exhibition, Centuries in the Making will explore the influences that shaped Gibbons’ vision, skills and technique and the stylistic and cultural influences he brought to this country.

The exhibition will also examine how Gibbons’ bold new direction changed the direction of British carving, sculpture and interiors, and how his extraordinary creative output inspired both his contemporaries and makers across the succeeding 300 years. The influence of Gibbons will be traced to the present day, with works by contemporary artists and designers, and specially created artworks by talented emerging carvers.

Works are currently being assembled from national museums, regional collections, historic houses and some international lenders, and combined with contemporary artworks.

(c) Grinling Gibbons Society

The exhibition will open at Bonhams Bond Street on Tuesday 3rd August and run until Friday 27th August, before then going on a UK tour, starting with Compton Verney Art Gallery, Warwickshire, where it will be on display from September to February 2022.

It’ll be a rare chance to see so many of the master carver’s work in one place, as you usually need to go around loads of buildings to see them in situ.

More events to mark “Grinling Gibbons 300” will run through the year to August 2022.

The Grinling Gibbons Society is also seeking founder members – details are here and the membership form is here.


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