Grinling Gibbons in the Workshop
This spring, we’re exploring craft and conservation related to the work of Grinling Gibbons, in partnership with the Grinling Gibbons Society.
In the last talk of the series, chaired by Lee Prosser (Historic Building Curator at Historic Royal Palaces), master carver Alan Lamb and conservator David Luard will look at Gibbons from their unique perspectives as experts responsible for conserving his surviving work.
In the last talk of the series, chaired by Lee Prosser, Historic Building Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, David Luard and Alan Lamb will look at Gibbons from their perspectives as conservator and carver responsible for the practical conservation of his surviving work.
The intimacy of a carved repair, involving an identical vocabulary of tools, a revisiting of the choreography of the maker’s chisel, the painstaking removal of later paint and varnish layers, or physical evidence of the reordering of a scheme, can throw much light on Gibbons’ workshop practices, his original design intentions and subsequent changes in fashion.
Master carver Alan Lamb will discuss carving workshops in 17th century England – Gibbons’ contract for the altar piece at Whitehall Palace Chapel, obliges him to employ fifty workmen! He will consider what we can learn about Gibbons’ own workshop practice from some of the surviving work, and from what we know of his apprentices, journey men, collaborators and imitators. We also look at the evidence of different hands working on the same piece and what can be learnt from subtle variations in style within a piece, and even mistakes.
What should Gibbons’ carving look like? Conservator David Luard has probably handled more of Gibbons’ work than anyone but Gibbons! From this unique viewpoint he will discuss the changes that have been made to Gibbons schemes over the last three hundred years, sometimes to honour the intended look and sometimes to subvert it.
Alan and Davids’s talk will be followed by a Q&A session chaired chaired by Lee Prosser, Historic Building Curator at Historic Royal Palaces.
As a young man, Alan trained as a baroque stringed instrument maker and restorer at The London College of Furniture. The carving and marquetry used to decorate these lutes viols and citterns became a passion as did a fascination with early varnishes. Partly as a result a result, the instruments became less and less playable and he eventually transferred his skills to conservation projects for The National Trust.
Alan was master carver on site during the National Trust restoration of Uppark, and carved copies of elaborate chimney pieces, mirrors and console tables for the refitting of the house. For fifteen years Alan taught on the carving and conservation courses at City and Guilds of London Art School and for ten years was Head of the Historic Carving dept at the College.
Alan now divides his time between the conservation of early decorative interiors and new or replacement figurative sculpture for historic contexts. Work that has ranged from the restoration of Grinling Gibbons’/ Arthur Frogley’s chapel at Trinity College Oxford, to the design and production of new gilded, neo -baroque Sculptures on the Royal Barge (The Spirit of Chartwell) for HM the Queen.
David Luard gained his Diploma in “Restoration and Conservation” from the City and Guilds of London Art School in the mid-1980s before joining Hugh Harrison at Herbert Read Limited in Devon. Following the fire at Hampton Court Palace in 1986, David worked for three and a half years conserving and restoring the Grinling Gibbons carvings there.
David established Luard Conservation in 1993, immediately returning to Hampton court to remove the yellow wax from the overmantle in the Queens State Bedchamber. He has also carried out quinquennial conditional reports and surveys of the Grinling Gibbons carvings at Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and St James’ Palace for HRP and The Royal Household, as well as for the National Trust and private clients at Petworth House, Lyme Park, Burghley House.
At the invitation of the late David Esterly, David took on the role of Consultant Conservator for the Grinling Gibbons exhibition at the V&A in 1998, where he carried out the conservation of the “Cosimo Panel” in situ in the Pitti Palace in Florence as well as conditional reports, conservation, and the hanging in the exhibition of Gibbons carvings from Badminton House, Kirtlington Park, Hampton Court, and Trinity College Library (Cambridge). David has also conserved the important Reredos at St. James’ Piccadilly, returning the carving to its original colour balance with the oak panelling behind – this was reputedly Wren’s favourite church. Additional conservation work has carried out to carvings in Middle Temple, Lyme Park, Burghley House, as well as further work at Windsor Castle.
In 2018 David delivered the Annual lecture to the Antiquarian Society of the Art Institute of Chicago on Gibbons, coinciding with the restoration of their overmantle from Cassiobury House. He also spoke at the Fairfax House Symposium in Georgian Studies entitled “Rethinking the Genius of Grinling Gibbons” in the same year.
David has been Historic timber consultant to the London Diocesan Advisory Committee for over a decade, advising on potential works to over 300 churches as well at teaching on the conservation Degree course at the City and Guilds of London Art school.