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Grinling Gibbons: Centuries in the Making

Sat 25 September 2021Sun 30 January 2022

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Grinling Gibbons: Centuries in the Making

‘Woodcarving so fine it seems to flutter before your very eyes…’

The Telegraph


The remarkable life and legacy of Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) is being celebrated at Compton Verney as part of a year-long series of events to commemorate the tercentenary of the most renowned British woodcarver of the 17th century, often called the ‘Michelangelo of Wood.’ Centuries in the Making has been created in partnership with the Grinling Gibbons Society and reveals the life, genius and legacy of this legendary sculptor and craftsman.

Arguably the greatest carver in British history, Grinling Gibbons remains a potent symbol of inspiration and achievement. He carved with an unsurpassed realism that could literally fool the eye. A fine example is the limewood cravat (c.1690, V&A) which was once owned by Sir Horace Walpole. Exquisitely carved to imitate Venetian needlepoint lace, it was so realistic it is said that when Walpole wore it to greet visitors at his home at Strawberry Hill House, they believed it was the real thing. Walpole described how: ‘There is no instance of man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers.’

Centuries in the Making explores the influences that shaped Gibbons’ vision, his skills and techniques, and the stylistic and cultural impact that he had on this country. Through sculpture and carving in wood and stone, drawings and sketches, portraits, still life paintings and documents, the exhibition brings fresh perspective to Gibbons and shows how his bold new direction changed the landscape of British carving, sculpture and interiors. The influence of Gibbons is traced to the present day, with works by contemporary artists and designers including Phoebe Cummings, Rebecca Stevenson and Alexander McQueen. Also showcased are the work of the eleven finalists in the Grinling Gibbons Tercentenary Award, which are displayed throughout our Collections galleries.

Visit grinling-gibbons.org to find out more.

Grinling Gibbons: Centuries in the Making is organised by Grinling Gibbons Society, in partnership with Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park

The exhibition is supported by grants from the Henry Moore Foundation and the Weston Loans Programme with Art Fund.

Banner image: Grinling Gibbons, Cravat, made of limewood with raised and openwork carving, ca. 1690 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London