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Last weekend I met the American wood-carver David Esterly at a friend’s party. David told me the story of how he came to leave academia and become a highly accomplished wood-carver. He was doing a PhD in the history of art, and then one day was walking down Piccadilly Circus, and he went into St James’ Church. There, he saw a wood carving by Grinling Gibbons on the reredos. David says seeing this wood carving was something like a revelation. Like a powerful, intense and full-body experience of artistry and creativity. And it inspired him to leave academia and become a wood-carver himself. Below is the carving from that church in Piccadilly.

Here’s a detail.

David also has a strong interest in ancient Greek philosophy. He told me he is fascinated by how Stoicism flourished in 17th century France, and particularly how it influenced the art of Poussin. One of his favourite paintings, he said, was Poussin’s painting of Diogenes, throwing away his wooden cup when he sees a boy drinking water from a river using his hand. ‘He loses the cup, his last possession, but he gains that whole incredible landscape behind him.’