Carved with Love - The Genius of British Woodwork: The Extraordinary Thomas Chippendale
The first programme in the series explores the life and work of one of the greatest designers of the eighteenth century, Thomas Chippendale. Charting his rise from relative obscurity in Otley, Yorkshire, where he joined the family business and trained as a joiner, the film follows Chippendale to London. There, he made his name as a cabinetmaker, crafting furniture in a new type of wood that had arrived in England from the West Indies – mahogany.
The film shows how he built up a thriving workshop in the capital’s creative hub, St. Martin’s Lane, where he supervised a workforce that included cabinetmakers, upholsters, carvers, gilders, chair makers and polishers. Focussing on key commissions, including Nostell Priory and Harewood House, both in Yorkshire, the film showcases the enduring elegance of Chippendale’s designs. In addition, it explores how he adapted to changes in fashion, collaborating with the Scottish architect, Robert Adam, to produce furniture that reflected the new taste for Classical simplicity, producing his masterpiece, the Diana and Minerva Commode, for Harewood.
Where Chippendale’s workshop could only reach a set number of customers, the film also shows how his lavish publication, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, proved his most important and enduring innovation, both in its elevation of the humble craftsman and dissemination of his design ideas to an international audience.
In addition to V&A curators, contributors include John Bly, James Lomax and Adam Bowett, as well as contemporary furniture makers.