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The Woodcarving Mastery of Grinling Gibbons

Grinling Gibbons was a master wood carver who was born in April 4, 1648 and lived most of his life in England. He was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and subsequently relocated to England in 1667.

Very little information is known about Grinling Gibbons' early life, particularly the first twenty years. According to some accounts, he was the son of Englishman Samuel Gibbons although this has been disputed in the past. Samuel Gibbons worked for many years under the English architect Inigo Jones who was widely regarded by many historians as one of the first important English architects.

Early on in his life, Gibbons distinguished himself as an exceptionally talented wood carver with a superior eye for detail and many historians consider him to be one of the finest wood carvers of all time.

In 1671, Gibbons incomparable skill in the art of woodcarving came to the attention of English diarist John Evelyn. Gibbons at this time was living in a cottage rented from Evelyn in Sayes Court, Deptford (now a part of south east London) not far from Evelyn's own home. Evelyn chanced upon the young wood carver working on a representation of Tintoretto's Crucifixion by the light of a candle. Evelyn was so taken with the wood working skill demonstrated by Gibbons that he introduced the wood carver to the English architect Sir Christopher Wren on the night of that very same day. Wren was equally awed and he and Evelyn then sought an audience with the King of England Charles II to introduce Gibbons to the monarch. The King was sufficiently impressed with Gibbons' talents and gave him his first commission, which can be found in the dining room of Windsor Castle to this day.

Other people were equally approving of Gibbons such as Horace Walpole who admired the effortless looseness and natural grace of the woodcarver's depiction of flowers in his work.

Sir Christopher Wren contracted Gibbons to work on a magnificent structure that he was designing, the St. Paul's Cathedral and after some time, Gibbons was appointed to the highly respected position as master carver to George I. Many examples of Gibbons' fine work from this period still survive to this very day in several churches around London and particularly in the choir stalls and organ case of St. Paul's Cathedral.

His long residence in Deptford has also left its mark on the community, with the establishment of the Grinling Gibbons primary School in Clyde Street, near his original home in Sayes Court and one of his works, "The Valley of the Dry Bones" can still be viewed at St. Nicholas Church today.

Among Grinling Gibbon's most productive associations was his collaboration with the famous sculptor from Brussels, Peter van Dievoet. The two worked together on a variety of projects until Peter van Dievoet's return to Brussels after the end of the revolution in 1688.

Grinling Gibbons died on August 3rd, 1721 and his remains lie buried in St. Paul's in Covent Garden, London.

Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 25/07/2008

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