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Shell Artist Showcase: Grinling Gibbons

We have recently returned from a memorable weekend viewing the impressive exhibition: Grinling Gibbons: Master Carver ( 1648-1721).

Grinling Gibbons: Tercentenary Exhibition. August 2021 Bonham’s London

Many fine examples of Gibbons' gild work were imaginatively presented at this three hundred years’ celebration, along with details of his biography and career in London.

Swags, crests and drops provided the quintessential structure for his ornamental wall appliqués. They formed the backdrop to still life and naturalism that followed in his motifs. The Kirtlington Panel (from1690 onwards) presents extraordinary realism. Acanthus whorls and floral swags are paired with a symmetrical composition celebrating the art of dining. Featured is Gibbons’ ‘signature’ vocabulary of fish, shells and birds in a technically brilliant manner, carrying the effect of trompe-l’oeil painting.

His contemporary, John Evelyn, praised his craftsmanship:

“Stupendous and beyond description …..the incomparable carving of our Gibbons, who is without controversy the greatest master both for innovation and rareness of work that was ever had in any age”.

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