Home » Blog » Grinling Gibbons – the Art of Carving

This year marks 300 years since the death of one of the most celebrated decorative woodcarvers of all time, Grinling Gibbons. This legendary artist, sculptor and carver's work continues to inspire and provide context for our own. There may not be as much of a demand for the Baroque opulence of his era, but where style is ever changing, the technique and principles of handcrafting decorative relief work for interiors remain the same. Here at DKT Artworks we always try to push creative boundaries whilst striving for the level of dedication and craftsmanship that is intrinsic to Gibbons’ work.

Lime wood openwork cravat carving that imitates needlepoint lace, from the V&A museum.

An example of Grinling Gibbon's work at Petworth House. By Heni Talks from 'The Carved Room'.

Who was Grinling Gibbons?

Not much is known about his early life. He was born in the Netherlands in 1648 and came to England as an adult where he collaborated with the architect Sir Christopher Wren on various projects, most notably St Pauls Cathedral. It is thought that Wren introduced Gibbons to King George II and that after some commissions by the royal family he became employed as Master Carver to the Crown.

There is no instance of a man before Gibbons who gave wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers, and chained together the various productions of the elements with the free disorder natural to each species.

– Henry Walpole

Best known for his technical prowess in creating delicate still life carvings of foliage, fruit and birds enveloped by drapery, Gibbons would use thick lime wood that he would meticulously undercut and chisel to make ornate works of art with objects almost appearing to be floating off the surface.

Wood carving by Grinling Gibbons in the apartments of king William III at Hampton Court Palace.

Gibbon’s work had a profound influence on the interior design of this period, as well as on craftsmen that came later, such as furniture maker Thomas Chippendale. Chippendale’s work features fine relief details clearly inspired by Gibbons.

Thomas Chippendale border designs for Prince William Henry, 1761.

The 'Split Quill' music stand. Collaborative project by DKT Artworks, The Master Carver's Association and Parabola Workshops

Outstanding works by Gibbons can be seen in Windsor Castle, Blenheim Palace, Whitehall Palace, the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the National Trust's Petworth House.

To learn more about Grinling Gibbons visit the official tercentenary page by the Master Carver's Association, there you can also find information about our collaborative project 'the Split Quill' and upcoming events. To view our bas-relief and sculptural work click through to our portfolio.

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