2018 Georgian Studies Symposium
Rethinking the Genius of Grinling Gibbons
Friday 19 October 2018 at the York Hilton Hotel and Fairfax House
The sixth Fairfax House Symposium in Georgian Studies, held in conjunction with the exhibition ‘The Genius of Grinling Gibbons’ at Fairfax House, and in partnership with the History of Art department at the University of York, aims to stimulate new thinking and new perspectives on the life, work, legacy, and significance of Grinling Gibbons, master carver of Restoration England.
Gibbons is a celebrated figure, yet much about his life and work remains obscure and contentious: not least, the difficulties of attribution have meant that the exact extent, chronology, and character of his oeuvre remain unclear. Similarly, as a ‘great figure’ of the Restoration, he has tended to be considered in isolation rather than placed in his social, political, scientific, architectural, and artistic contexts, while his position within the marginalized field of decorative arts has distorted the scholarly and antiquarian perspectives through which he has been viewed. Questions of patronage, politics, artistic influence, and the collaborative and workshop cultures of creation, as well as the national identity ascribed to this ‘English genius’ who was born and trained in the Netherlands, may all require reassessment. The 370th anniversary of Gibbons’ birth (and the 350th anniversary of his arrival in York) provide an opportune moment to draw together the knowledge gained from previous generations of scholarship, to stimulate new ideas and perspectives, and to rethink the perception and reality of ‘England’s Master Carver’.