Sculptor, artist and, arguably, the greatest carver in British history, Grinling Gibbons has left an indelible mark that defines the cultural identity of the nation. Rising to become the country’s most celebrated master-carver, Gibbons had the ability to transform unyielding and solid media into ‘loose and airy lightness’. His masterpieces adorn palaces, country houses, churches and museums around Britain; his example has inspired craftsmanship and carving from his contemporaries to the modern-day.
Gibbons is a potent symbol of inspiration and achievement, and 3 August 2021, the 300th anniversary of his death, provides an important opportunity to celebrate the life, extraordinary genius and legacy of this man. In the words of the late David Esterly, woodcarver and scholar: Three hundred years on, it’s time to celebrate this remarkable man, and deepen our acquaintance with him.
His tercentenary has sparked collaboration on a remarkable scale, and a partnership of individuals and organisations including museums, historic houses, collections and livery companies, has come together to create something celebratory, national and truly lasting.
The Grinling Gibbons Society (President: Tristram Hunt of the V&A, Chairman: Mark Aspinall, Master of the Mercers’) has been formed in his honour to masterplan a festival GRINLING GIBBONS 300 which befits the man and captures the attention of the country and beyond.
GG300 will see a programme of public events (talks, lectures music, conferences, tours and workshops) creative projects, education and research taking place across the year: from York Minster to St Paul’s Cathedral, from Oxford to Cambridge.
The landmark of the year will be an exhibition which not only celebrates Gibbons’ vision and genius but also how his bold new direction changed the landscape of British carving, sculpture and interiors. Most especially, the exhibition will explore how Gibbons’ extraordinary creative output acted as a source of inspiration both for his contemporaries and for makers across the succeeding 300 years.
The GGS is pleased to be working with museums and collections across the UK to shape this exhibition and is exploring loan material with the Royal Collection, St Paul’s Cathedral, V&A, British Museum, British Library, NPG, Royal Armouries, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Bodleian, Trinity College Cambridge plus a host of other collections and partners. It is also looking to locate artworks by Gibbons outside of museums and collections, and would be grateful for any lines of enquiry that BADA members might be able to suggest.
The exhibition will be launched at Bonhams New Bond Street on 3rd August next year to coincide with the 300th anniversary. Ahead of the tercentenary launch, much work is going into developing the new Society, fundraising and launching Foundation Membership, all of which will play a key part in realising the ambitious programme for next year. The GGS is delighted to welcome the BADA as one of its Founders. BADA members can also get behind this important, once-in-a-generation event by becoming Founder Members, collaborating in the GG300 programme and helping circulate information about the GGS and Festival.
Image c/o Bob Easton.