Part 1: The Extraordinary Thomas Chippendale
We begin by exploring the life and work of one of the greatest designers of the 18th century, Thomas Chippendale. Chippendale is the most famous furniture designer the world has ever produced, but what about the man behind the chairs? The film shows how Chippendale worked his way up from humble roots to working for the nobility, but also how he was ruined by the very aristocrats he created such wonders for.
Part 2: The Glorious Grinling Gibbons
We continue by looking at the life and work of Grinling Gibbons. He isn't a household name, but he is the greatest the woodcarver the British Isles ever produced. Working in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London, Gibbons created delightful carved masterpieces for the likes of Charles II and William of Orange. This film explores the genius of the man they called the 'Michelangelo of wood'.
Part 3: The Divine Craft of Carpentry
Concluding episode looking at the Middle Ages, a golden era. Sponsored by the monarchy and the Church, carvers and carpenters created wonders that still astound us today, from the magnificent roof of Westminster Hall to the Coronation Chair, last used by Elizabeth II, but created 700 years ago. The film also shows how this precious legacy was nearly destroyed during the fires of the Reformation.
Carved with Love: the Genius of British Woodwork - Chippendale expert John Bly.
Carved with Love: the Genius of British Woodwork, BBC Four, review
Sarah Rainey finds BBC Four documentary The Genius of British Woodwork surprisingly uplifting.
By Sarah Rainey10:02PM GMT 10 Jan 2013 in The Telegraph / http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9794389/Carved-with-Love-the-Genius-of-British-Woodwork-BBC-Four-review.html
Carved with Love: the Genius of British Woodwork (BBC Four) was a jaunty little documentary about Thomas Chippendale, the great 18th-century woodcarver. Now, I don’t know much about woodwork (or at least I didn’t this time yesterday), but this lured me in by nicking the theme tune from The Great British Bake Off.
Sixty minutes of close-ups of chairs, and commodes later, I was hooked.
The show, the first in a four-part series looking at British craftsmanship over the ages, took in Chippendale’s career from his days as a carpenter in Yorkshire to his grand international catalogue, which inspired décor in the homes of George Washington and Catherine the Great. Beautifully filmed inside some of Britain’s most opulent stately homes, it was curiously gripping, with actor Paul Copley’s brilliant, booming voice-over making even a wooden chest sound interesting.
There were facts galore about Chippendale, known as the “High Priest of Mahogany”, insights into long-forgotten techniques (japanning, anyone?) and scenic vistas of the Yorkshire Dales – all of which made for cheery, easy viewing.
It was clearly the first time some of the experts – such as Antiques Roadshow’s John Bly, nearly bursting out of his pinstripe suit as he fondled a chair – had been out of the house for months; and the exquisite furniture seemed to get them flustered. “In some ways it’s a sensual relationship, all these wonderful curves, and I have the pleasure of touching it and stroking it,” said one curator of her favourite cabinet. “It’s seen a lot of action, this desk,” said another.
Admittedy it was slightly dull in places – a bit like a tour of a dusty old museum. But at best, it was weird, wonderful, furniture porn.
Chippendale was the only child of John Chippendale (1690–1768), joiner, and his first wife Mary (née Drake) (1693–1729). He received an elementary education at Prince Henry's Grammar School. The Chippendale family had long been the wood working trades and so he probably received his basic training from his father, though it is believed that he also was trained by Richard Wood in York, before he moved to London. Wood later ordered eight copies of the Director. On 19 May 1748 he married Catherine Redshaw at St George's Chapel, Mayfair and they had five boys and four girls.
In 1749 Chippendale rented a modest house in Conduit Court, near Covent Garden. In 1752 he moved to Somerset Court, off the Strand. In 1754 Chippendale moved to 60–62 St. Martin's Lane in London, where for the next 60 years the family business operated until 1813 when his son, Thomas Chippendale (Junior), was evicted for bankruptcy. In 1754 he also went into partnership with James Rannie, a wealthy Scottish merchant, who put money into the business at the same time as Chippendale brought out the first edition of the Director. Rannie and his bookkeeper, Thomas Haig, probably looked after the finances of the business. His wife, Catherine, died in 1772. After James Rannie died in 1766, Thomas Haig seems to have borrowed £2,000 from Rannie's widow, which he used to become Chippendale’s partner. One of Rannie's executors, Henry Ferguson, became a third partner and so the business became Chippendale, Haig and Co. Thomas Chippendale (Junior) took over the business in 1776 allowing his father to retire. He moved to what was then called Lob's Fields (now known as Derry Street) in Kensington. Chippendale married Elizabeth Davis at Fulham Parish Church on 5 August 1777. He fathered three more children. In 1779 Chippendale moved to Hoxton where he died of tuberculosis and was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 16 November 1779.
There is a statue and memorial plaque dedicated to Chippendale outside the old Prince Henry's Grammar School in Manor Square, in his home town of Otley, near Leeds, Yorkshire. There is a full-size sculpted figure of Thomas Chippendale on the façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
After working as a journeyman cabinet maker in London, in 1754, he became the first cabinet-maker to publish a book of his designs, titled The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director. Three editions were published, the first in 1754, followed by a virtual reprint in 1755, and finally a revised and enlarged edition in 1762, by which time Chippendale's illustrated designs began to show signs of Neoclassicism.
Chippendale was much more than just a cabinet maker, he was an interior designer who advised on soft furnishings and even the colour a room should be painted. Chippendale often took on large-scale commissions from aristocratic clients. Twenty-six of these commissions have been identified. Here furniture by Chippendale can still be identified, The locations include:
Blair Castle, Perthshire, for the Duke of Atholl (1758);
Wilton House, for Henry, 10th Earl of Pembroke (c 1759-1773);
Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, for Sir Roland Winn, Bt (1766–85);
Mersham Le Hatch, Kent, for Sir Edward Knatchbull, Bt (1767–79);
David Garrick both in town and at his villa at Hampton, Middlesex;
Normanton Hall, Rutland and other houses for Sir Gilbert Heathcote Bt (1768–78) that included the management of a funeral for Lady Bridget Heathcote, 1772;
Harewood House, Yorkshire, for Edwin Lascelles (1767–78);
Newby Hall, Yorkshire, for William Weddell (c 1772-76);
Temple Newsam, Yorkshire, for Lord Irwin (1774);
Paxton House, Berwickshire, Scotland, for Ninian Home (1774–91);
Burton Constable Hall, Yorkshire for William Constable (1768–79);
Petworth House, Sussex and other houses for George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1777–79).
Dumfries House, Ayrshire, Scotland, for the 5th Earl Of Dumfries.
Chippendale collaborated in furnishing interiors designed by Robert Adam and at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, and Melbourne House, London, for Lord Melbourne, with Sir William Chambers (c. 1772-75).
Chippendale's Director was used by many other cabinet makers. Consequently recognisably "Chippendale" furniture was produced in Dublin, Philadelphia, Lisbon, Copenhagen and Hamburg. Catherine the Great and Louis XVI both possessed copies of the Director in its French edition.The Director shows four main styles: English with deep carving, elaborate French rococo in the style of Louis XV furniture, Chinese style with latticework and lacquer, and Gothic with pointed arches, quatrefoils and fret-worked legs. His favourite wood was mahogany; in seat furniture he always used solid wood rather than veneers.
the life and work of thomas chippendale, gilbert christopher
Obituary: Christopher Gilbert
BERNARD D. COTTON TUESDAY 20 OCTOBER 1998 in The Independent / http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-christopher-gilbert-1179411.html
WHEN CHRISTOPHER Gilbert joined Temple Newsam, Leeds, in the early 1960s as an Assistant Keeper, few would have guessed that he was about to embark on a scholarly career that would place him as the undisputed elder statesman of British furniture history, almost 40 years later.
Born in Lancaster in 1936, he was educated at the universities of Keele, where he read English and History, and Durham, where he was awarded an MA for a thesis on aspects of 16th-century theatre. He spent all of his working life at Temple Newsam, a large country house on the outskirts of Leeds owned by the city council, becoming its Keeper from 1967 to 1974. He remained based at Temple Newsam after he was appointed Director of Leeds City Art Galleries in 1982, a post he held until 1995 when ill-health forced his early retirement.
It was here that his lifelong passion for historic furniture was fostered in his principal work of researching the furniture collections. His two- volume catalogue of the furniture at both Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall (a smaller Edwardian house also owned by Leeds City Council) acts as a model for the concise and relevant description of furniture. His love of the English language, and his ability to use it in precise and illuminating ways, is reflected in his often-quoted motto, to "write as if one is paying the publisher to print each word!"
For those interested in the classic 18th-century furniture traditions, however, it will be his towering two-volume The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale (1978) for which he will be remembered. It brims with the social history of Chippendale's time as well as providing details of provenanced furniture.
In this work he demonstrated, in a way hardly paralleled before, that contemporary writing on furniture history could move away from subjective, speculative accounts to those underpinned by the scholarly rigour and documentary evidence expected of an academic discipline. It is a great sadness that the last great project he had embarked upon, the life and work of Thomas Chippendale the Younger, will not now follow from his pen.
At the Chippendale Society, in his roles as Honorary Curator and later President, Gilbert was responsible for raising large sums of money, and orchestrating important acquisitions of provenanced Chippendale furniture and related documentation.
His recognition of the pre- eminence of achieving provenance for furniture led him to undertake, with his friend and co-editor, Geoffrey Beard, and a large team of volunteers, the Herculean task of collecting biographical information from a variety of sources, culminating in The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 (1986). This work offers the first comprehensive source of maker information, and provides an accessible research tool for those who collect or work with furniture.
With the help of his vast network of contacts amongst museums, auction houses, private owners, and particularly members of the antiques trade, Gilbert more recently followed the dictionary with an illustrated volume of provenanced metropolitan furniture, The Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996). In 1993, with Tessa Murdoch of the Victoria and Albert Museum, he organised an exhibition held at Temple Newsam and the V&A, on John Channon and brass-inlaid furniture 1730-1760.
Although always ambitious and pioneering in his own work, he was, too, generous towards others, and particularly young scholars, and typically responded with lightning speed to questions and observations. In this way, he stood at the crossroads of new information from many sources, a gift he was always prepared to acknowledge.
His interest in developing furniture history as an academic discipline was reflected in his immediate response to the formation of the Furniture History Society in 1964. He joined its council almost from the outset, became its journal editor from 1975 to 1983, and later its Chairman in 1990. He was also elected as a Fellow of the Museums Association and the Society of Antiquaries.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Gilbert stood almost alone amongst his contemporaries in being deeply aware that the concerns of furniture history were often narrowly directed towards the furniture made for the fashionable homes of the wealthy, and that, important though these traditions were, concentrating research and publishing in these areas served to deny a voice and recognition to the greater volume of British furniture made for working people's houses during the 18th and 19th centuries, and the oak furniture traditions of the 17th century and earlier.
Quietly he began to explore and redress the imbalance, by publishing authors in the FHS Journal who were working in this field, as well as his own work. Significantly, perhaps, his first major paper, "Regional Furniture Traditions in English Vernacular Furniture", was published in America, as a Winterthur Museum Conference report, in 1974. This paper, although hardly known in Britain, found an already well-versed audience in the US, and it remains a model of methodological excellence.
Coincidentally, he began to produce a series of exhibitions and exhibition catalogues which were intended to show different aspects of this as yet to be accepted area of furniture history. Beginning with an exhibition of oak furniture from Yorkshire churches (1971), followed by an exhibition of oak furniture from the Lancashire Lakeland region (1973), Gilbert explored in particular the methodology of comparing the motifs on fixed, architectural woodwork with those on moveable furniture, as a way of provenancing furniture to a region of origin. In this, and other work, which he published regularly over the ensuing years, Gilbert proved that furniture for the common purpose, vernacular furniture, was designed and made with local or regional design preferences.
Gilbert's work took yet other turns during the 1970s which evidenced his growing sense of this new field. His exhibition "Town and Country Furniture" (1972) took regional furniture out of the rural or "country furniture" category which commercial interests had cast for it, by showing that robust and well-defined furniture traditions existed in both rural and urban areas. The sub-text, as always, was to demonstrate that vernacular furniture can sometimes be provenanced to its maker, and at other times to its region of origin by its association with people, places, or other, provenanced items of furniture.
For the exhibition he gathered together an eclectic collection of furniture to demonstrate the range of items which could be recognised in these ways, including chairs, commodes, chests of drawers, linen presses, settees, and corner cupboards. Exactly a decade later, he organised "Common Furniture" (1982). This time, with the benefit of a further 10 years of collecting new information, the areas of attribution had grown and developed.
In the years between the two exhibitions, he showed how furniture was not the exclusive domain of the domestic, and that that made for institutions as diverse as asylums, prisons, army barracks, railway stations and workhouses all required specialisation which was certainly vernacular, and whose design was sometimes regional or context dependent.
His two exhibitions "Back Stairs Furniture from Country Houses" (1977) and "School Furniture" (1978) brought fresh evidence to the core belief that furniture studies led by social-historical perspectives provide a meaning and significance for furniture previously considered merely mundane. Essentially it is this view which Gilbert knew would sustain the development of vernacular furniture studies, and given the enormous potential for original research in this area, often following new and radical research methods of object analysis and fieldwork techniques, he believed that major advances in furniture history were to be gained.
His most recent, and largest, published work concerned with both regional and institutional furniture, English Vernacular Furniture 1750-1900 (1991), offers a summation of the many sub-groups of furniture and their social history which he had researched. As with many new and developing ideas, there is often an internal dynamic which generates interest in others, and so it was with Gilbert's work on regional furniture traditions, for, in 1985, the Regional Furniture Society was formed with the express purpose of stimulating interest in the regional furniture traditions, and to publish an annual journal of new research in the field.
Although some detractors at the time felt that this move might fragment the established order of publishing in furniture history, Gilbert believed that the scope of the field required a separate scholarly publication and the provision of special events for its members. Displaying his commitment, he served as the society's first journal editor from 1987 to 1992. A decade on, his belief in the field seems fully justified in the now considerable publishing record to its credit, with several dozen authors and researchers now regularly publishing.
Gilbert was always at the forefront of developments. It is perhaps a fitting epitaph that his most recent call to the colours was to become a trustee of the recently formed Regional Furniture Museum Trust at High Wycombe, which represents an initiative to form a museum and research centre for the study of British Regional Furniture.
Christopher Gilbert had a strong emotional attachment to the north of England, and gained great refreshment from staying at the (Spartan) family cottage in the Dales, where he could retreat to write, walk, and enjoy his twin interests of bird-watching and steam railways. His second wife, Mary, was, with her sense of humour and vivacious ways, a perfect foil for this earnest and scholarly man.
Christopher Gallard Gilbert, furniture historian and museum curator: born Lancaster 7 September 1936; Assistant Keeper, Temple Newsam House 1961-67, Keeper 1967-74; Principal Keeper, Leeds City Art Galleries 1974- 82, Director 1982-95; twice married (two daughters; three stepsons, one stepdaughter); died Leeds 29 September 1998.
BY DAVID ROSS, EDITOR in http://www.britainexpress.com/History/gibbons.htm
The most famous English woodcarver of all time was born, oddly enough, not in England at all but in Rotterdam, in what is now Holland, in 1648. Grinling Gibbons did not set foot in the British Isles until sometime around 1670 or 1671.
In those days a craftsman needed to be recognized and promoted by patrons to make his work widely known.
Gibbons was fortunate in that he was blessed with extraordinary talent in woodworking, and that his talent was recognized and promoted by a succession of patrons until he eventually came to the notice of Charles II.
Charles gave Gibbons commissions, as did William III and George I. Gibbons was also a favourite of the premier architect of the age, Christopher Wren. Wren called upon Gibbon to supply decorative carving for many of his country house commissions.
The genius of Gibbons is not simply that he had a remarkable ability to mold and shape wood, but that he evolved a distinct style that was all his own. Working mostly in limewood, Gibbons' trademark was the cascade of fruit, leaves, flowers, foliage, fish, and birds. Such cascades could be applied to paneling, furniture, walls, or even chimneys.
Perhaps to prove that he was not limited in his ability to the cascades, Gibbons produced a cravat made of limewood in a perfect imitation of Venetian needlepoint. The "cravat" was so lifelike that a foreign visitor was fooled into thinking it the standard dress of the English country gentleman!
Horace Walpole, who is known to have later worn the cravat on at least one occasion, remarked in 1763, "There is no instance of man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers". The cravat is now on display in the Chapel at Chatsworth.
Much of Gibbons work survives in isolated country houses, but Hampton Court Palace near London is blessed with an abundance of fine carvings by the Dutch-born master.
William III commissioned Gibbons to redecorate his State Apartments, and was so impressed by the result that in 1693 he gave Gibbons permission to use the title "Master Carver".
Such carvings as the ones at Hampton Court are filled with symbolism which would have been apparent to an educated observer of the day, but which would escape most modern observers. Very often each object in the carving would have a particular meaning or reference to a classical Greek or Roman ideal or story.
Some of Gibbons best work outside Hampton Court survives at Petworth House in Sussex, in particular a ceiling he designed for the Duke of Devonshire, and at Lyme Park and Dunham Massey in Cheshire, Belton House in Lincolnshire and Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire. Other fine examples of his work can be seen at Windsor, and St Paul's in London. Also in London, the font at All Hallows by the Tower church has a wooden cover carved by Gibbons in 1682.
Grinling Gibbons work had an enormous influence of interior design and decor during the Golden Age of the English country house. Later craftsmen such as Thomas Chippendale are known to have been heavily influenced by his work. Grinling Gibbons died in 1720.
‘The Lost Carving’ by David Esterly
By Buzzy Jackson
| GLOBE CORRESPONDENT
JANUARY 03, 2013 in The Boston Globe / http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2013/01/03/book-review-the-lost-carving-journey-heart-making-david-esterly/VTIaWyy3kEBvE5vtOiLSON/story.html
David Esterly’s memoir, “The Lost Carving,’’ is ostensibly about woodcarving, but there is more to it than that. There are precedents, of course: Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’’ (1974) called itself “An Inquiry Into Values,” and the more recent “Shop Class as Soulcraft’’ (2009) by Matthew B. Crawford was subtitled “An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.” Esterly’s book is, besides its main topic, a “Journey to the Heart of Making.” Inquiry or journey: What’s the difference? For the most part, pretensions: Esterly doesn’t have any.
He’s not trying to convince the reader of anything (though the reader may end up convinced); he’s simply trying to understand his own path from English lit graduate student to master practitioner of high-relief, naturalistic woodcarving, an art form thought to have reached its peak in the early 18th century in the work of the Dutch-born carver Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721).
Esterly begins his story with two epiphanies. As an American student at Cambridge in the 1970s he happened to walk into St. James’s Church in London and spotted Gibbons’s carvings above the altar. “[A] shadowy tangle of vegetation, carved to airy thinness. Organic forms, in an organic medium. My steps slowed, and stopped. I stared. The sickness came over me. . . . The traffic noise on Piccadilly went silent, and I was at the still center of the universe.”
Instantly obsessed with Gibbons, Esterly resolved to research his work and write about it. But that wasn’t enough. “More than the mind needed to be deployed,” he thought, so he bought himself the raw materials used by Gibbons himself: chisels, gouges, and limewood — the preferred medium of high-relief woodcarvers. “I found that as the blade moved through the wood my whole body moved, too, with it and against it at the same time. A wave of pleasure passed through me.” Esterly was in love. He turned his back on the academic life and taught himself to carve.
Years later in 1986, now a master carver, Esterly was called back to England, to Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court, where a fire had recently destroyed many of the original Gibbons carvings that decorated the royal apartments. Esterly was hired to the team of artisans who would repair the lost pieces. He recognized the significance of the project; it would be the culmination of his life work (what Crawford would call soulcraft) and a reunion with his great teacher and master, Grinling Gibbons. It was also a reckoning: Would he really be capable of repairing this masterpiece?
Some of the challenges he faced were technical — before the invention of sandpaper, how did carvers smooth finished pieces? — but even more were bureaucratic, as Esterly navigated the cliques and politics of the British heritage industry. Along the way he reveals some of the lessons he learned through the practice of his craft. The wisdom that comes from making mistakes, for example, and the way in which “[d]isaster allows nature to take control, to create its own order. Disaster can be a fine designer.” He learns humility in the presence of a block of wood. “The wood began as a submissive, put-upon thing, then gradually came to life,” he writes: “A carver begins as a god and ends as slave.”
“The Lost Carving’’ is a book about the rewards of hard work and learning to appreciate one’s limits. It’s also an exploration of the ways in which great art can enrich our lives in the most tangible ways. This is a serious, beautiful book about craftsmanship written not by a frustrated philosopher but, as Esterly proudly describes himself, by “a dirty monk with a vision.”
THE LOST CARVING: A Journey to the Heart of Making