There are many good reasons for the student to study the history of stained glass; first, to truly excel, the student should be aware of the romance of the medium. Henry Willet would talk extensively of the “lust and the lure and the love of stained glass.” While this cliché is admittedly melodramatic, it nevertheless gives an accurate feel for the attitude of someone who was passionate about the craft. Second, an appreciation of the history of stained glass will foster a dispassionate, critical approach in the student when appraising stained glass. The student of stained glass is urged to approach the medium with an informed, non-prejudiced understanding of the various styles to be encountered.jone
Informed observation will free the student’s imagination for design, not to copy but rather to inspire. There are many excellent resources available for the study of stained glass and the student is urged to acquire a library of reference books that illustrate and describe specific installations in detail. However, there is no substitute for actually viewing stained glass in situ; that is, in its architectural surroundings.
A comprehensive bibliography follows this chapter. Because this volume is intended as a reference of techniques for the stained glass artist and not as a history of the craft, this chapter should serve only as a starting point for the student who wishes to develop a deeper appreciation of the history of craft.
It should also be noted that there are many periods that are imperfectly documented. For instance, 60 stained glass businesses were listed in Philadelphia’s city directories before 1900. None of those studios exist today, and little is known about them.
The Obscure Beginnings of Stained Glass
Many histories of stained glass begin with Pliny’s tale of the accidental discovery of glass by Phoenician sailors. The legend recounts shipwrecked sailors who set their cooking pots on blocks of natron (soda) from their cargo then built a fire under it on the beach. In the morning, the fire’s heat had melted the sand and soda mixture. The resultant mass had cooled and hardened into glass. Today, though, it is thought that Pliny — though energetic in collecting material — was not very scientifically reliable. It is more likely that Egyptian or Mesopotamian potters accidentally discovered glass when firing their vessels. The earliest known manmade glass is in the form of Egyptian beads from between 2750 and 2625 BC. Artisans made these beads by winding a thin string of molten glass around a removable clay core. This glass is opaque and very precious.
Jean Lafond’s gripping story tells how, in the desert west of Palmyra in 1937, David Schlumberger, director of excavations, showed Lafond a cache of 115 colored glass fragments that Lafond described as “Greenish white, bluish white, moss green, two tobacco yellows (one more gold than the other), burnt sienna, smokey, three purples (one near wine, one more brown), a garnet of great beauty and two violet purples. A varied thickness adds to their nuances.” The greens had been blown in a roundel which he could surmise because of the presence of part of the outer rim. Several pieces showed a right angle and traces of a grozer on the edge. Schlumberger explained that these glasses had decorated claires-voies (literally “clear ways”) of stucco designed in elegant interlaced arabesques (Jean Lafond, Le Vitrail, P.20).
In the first century AD, the Romans glazed glass into windows. They cast glass slabs and employed blowing techniques to spin discs and made cylinder glass. The glass was irregular and not very transparent.
One of the oldest known examples of multiple pieces of colored glass used in a window were unearthed at St. Paul’s Monastery in Jarrow, England, founded in 686 AD.
The oldest complete European windows found in situ are thought to be five relatively sophisticated figures in Augsburg Cathedral. (These five windows are no longer in their original setting. They have recently been moved into a museum and replaced with copies.) These five windows show fired glass painting which utilizes line and tonal shading and they are made of bright, varied colors of glass. The authors of Stained Glass say, “they are the work of skilled, experienced stained glass artists. Where are the children who are father to these men? Where are the earlier windows?” (Lawrence Lee, Seddon and Stephens. Stained Glass. P. 67)
Authorities believe that Arabian glass windows appeared in the second half of the thirteenth century. Lewis F. Day suggests that Byzantine, Moorish or Arabian glass could have appeared by the tenth century AD. Pieces of glass were either inserted into intricate pierced marble or stone, or glazed in plaster before the plaster had set hard. Ribs of iron were often used to strengthen the plaster.
Arabian filigree windows moved into Europe when the Moors entered Spain. As the fashion moved farther north into areas of more inclement weather, covering became more necessary. This covering usually came in the form of slices of alabaster. In Europe, plates of pierced lead replaced the plaster grillwork. The first of these had no glass in the decorative openings, but later small pieces of glass were attached using strings of lead.
Arabian glass windows’ development was slowed because Islam allows no subject other than geometric or vegetal ornament. Traces of cold paint on glass have been found in the mid-east indicating that windows probably stood up better than those windows in damper climates.
In 1930 at Saint Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, the archaeologist Cecchelli dug up three glass fragments showing Christ with a cruciform nimbus standing between an alpha and omega painted with grisaille. (The word grisaille applies equally to vitrifiable glass paint, as well as a style of lightly toned window that has been painted and stained in a decorative pattern.) It is assumed these fragments date from approximately 540 AD, the time of the construction of the building.
In 1878 at a dig in a cemetery abandoned about 1000 AD at Sery les Mezieres, Aisne, France, Jules Pilloy found about 30 pieces of glass which had suffered from an apparent fire, a lead strip with two channels and a small slab of bone among some charred wood. The bone (which might have been a holy relic) pre-dated Charlemagne. Edmond Socard arranged the glass into a small, simple window. A cross patee, from which hung an alpha and omega, were painted and fired on it. This symbol was very popular from the sixth to ninth centuries. Unfortunately, this treasure was destroyed in 1918 during World War I.
Fragments of a very early head of Christ were excavated in 1932 at Lorsch Abbey in Germany. This is similar to the better known and more complete head of Christ from the Abbey Church of Saint Peter, Wissembourg, Alsace (c.1060). The latter has more advanced glass painting with both trace line and wash. Because of their size and their aspect — that is, with the heads forward like the icon called the Panto crater, as well as the lack of any fragments showing bodies — Catherine Brisac thinks these heads were displayed as icons in the middle of windows in which they would have been the only painted elements.
Christian iconography developed from pagan illustrations found in the catacombs. The beardless pagan god of the underworld, Orphaeus, was transformed into a youthful Christ the Good Shepherd. From the fourth century forward, He had a beard. The pagan phoenix and peacock were used for resurrection symbols.
Wall paintings gave way to mosaics of ceramic tiles, stones and glass bits. Moving from the catacombs, the earliest Christians worshiped in their homes; then, when they became politically secure enough, the Christians built churches. The first churches housed the relics of saints. Architecturally, they were based on the basilica, the Roman law court. The cruciform floor plan developed from the Byzantine square floor plan with a dome added.
European kings and bishops sent to Jerusalem and the east for holy relics. Their emissaries brought back small works of art such as cloisonne , damascene and carved ivory set with jewels and precious glass. Oriental and African craftsmen and glassmakers found their way to Europe as early as the third century. We can no longer agree with Hugh Arnold when he writes, “The making of stained glass windows is one of the arts that belong wholly to the Christian Era. Its traditions do not extend back beyond the great times of Gothic architecture.” (Hugh Arnold, Stained Glass of the Middle Ages in England and France. p.3) We can no longer say that stained glass is a purely Christian art form, either at its beginning or in its current usage.
Romanesque Stained Glass
Romanesque architecture is more uniform than the stained glass that adorns it. The walls are thick and the window openings small with rounded tops. Because the glass was set in small openings, it had to let in considerable light. Today Romanesque windows seem darker because of corrosion.
Some figures in Romanesque stained glass stand or sit staring straight ahead. Some are involved in action as witnessed by their billowing garments. Some windows are made up of a series of events enclosed in medallions. The earlier windows of this style are more simple, primitive and rare. They depict well-known saints or stories from the Bible. Reverence for the Virgin Mary is prevalent at this time and she is often depicted as a queen. The windows use stylized vegetal ornament and decorative beading around the scenes and figures. The predominant colors are red and blue. This style of stained glass seems to have developed from cloisonne enamels and miniature paintings.
Few Romanesque windows remain. Those that do remain are frequently found as illustrations in books; thus, they often seem familiar. Some examples of the Romanesque style are the Augsburg figures mentioned previously, c. 1120; parts of an Ascension scene from Le Mans Cathedral, c. 1140; the Great Crucifixion from Poitiers Cathedral, c. 1165-70; the facade windows and La Belle Verriere from Chartres Cathedral, c. 1150; and, at the end of the era, the great figures in the choir clerestories of Canterbury Cathedral, c. 1200.
Gothic Stained Glass
The medieval Church was the most important patron of the arts. Having made that statement, the name of the single person who most personifies this concept must immediately follow: Abbot Suger of Saint Denis, the royal abbey located just outside Paris. Suger was a fellow student and friend to King Louis VI, minister of Louis VII, and regent during the second crusade. His writings show him to have been a shrewd businessman, a politician with a genius for detail, and a devoted servant to his king. Suger reformed and rebuilt the abbey and augmented its wealth. As its treasures increased, many pilgrims told stories of it and its influence spread. Suger was guided by a philosophy including the mysticism of light; this philosophy compelled him to enlarge the windows and beautify them with colored glass.
Window subject treatment grew during the Gothic period, expanding from simple figures to a complex iconography fully understood by only a few experts today. This iconography made use of symbolism based on bestiaries which can be called “unnatural history” and on complicated typology (Old Testament stories that symbolize New Testament events). Today, scholars study these windows to learn about the daily life of the time. Guilds of workmen donated windows that included likenesses of themselves engaged in their businesses. The appearance of heraldry in the windows demonstrates the increasing importance of secular families.
This time saw the formation of new religious orders that needed new buildings. Many cathedrals and churches were built. The relationship between Saint Denis and Chartres is well established through a similarity of style and iconography. Stained glass historians today re-trace the work of traveling studios. Suger wrote, “Moreover we caused to be painted by the exquisite hands of many masters from different regions, a splendid variety of new windows both below and above: from that first one which begins with the Tree of Jesse in the chevet of the church to that which is installed above the principal door of the church’s entrance.” The latter was a petalled rose window, the first of its kind. A Jesse Tree window was soon after installed in Chartres.
As the studios traveled from job site to job site, they took sketches and models along with their tools. The windows in Laon Cathedral show the influence of the Ingebourg Psalter.
Le Mans Cathedral, Amiens Cathedral, Beauvais and some Canterbury stained glass is stylistically similar to the Paris-Chartres school. Although the cathedral is a contemporary of Chartres, the windows of Bourges are more archaic. Although Chartres’ stained glass depends chiefly upon reds and blues, in Bourges, pure whites, yellows and greens are prominent.
The Gothic style was also developing outside France. The stained glass in the cathedral of Lausanne, Switzerland shows a marked French influence. Stained glass craftsmen from France are known to have worked at Canterbury in England, as did the French architect, William of Sens. French influence can be seen in Spanish stained glass of this time, especially in Aragon, Toledo and Castille. The windows in Leon Cathedral are significant although greatly restored.
In Germany, the Romanesque style endured longer than in other areas. Notable windows are in Cologne and Strasbourg Cathedrals and the Franciscan Monastery of Konigsfelden.
The international Gothic style came late to Vienna and Prague. The earliest remaining glass in Italy, in Assisi, is the work of German glaziers. The oculus in the Cathedral of Siena is called the “first modern window” because the subjects are treated as separate scenes. The window is a circle with a metal grid structure, rather than stone mullions, dividing it into petals. By the end of the medieval period, (the second quarter of the fourteenth century), perspective and volume were becoming evident. Subject was more pictorial and not subservient to the architecture
Renaissance Stained Glass
Renaissance stained glass is very different from that of the previous period. The themes are still principally biblical. Because subjects in renaissance stained glass are shown dressed in period clothing, a knowledge of the history of costume helps date windows. Allegorical themes are even more elaborate than medieval iconography. Figures represent abstract ideas. There are secular scenes in church windows.
Stained glass was used in secular buildings during the renaissance period. Historic scenes or heraldry were placed in town halls and small panels (usually silver stain and paint on white glass) were incorporated into clear glass windows in homes. The labors of the seasons are a favorite theme during this period. In large church windows, the scenes extended over the whole, ignoring the mullions. Buildings portrayed in the windows are solid, in classical style, shown with correct perspective. Some action takes place far back from the picture plane with vistas in the distance. Faces have individuality and show emotion.
The way stained glass craftsmen worked also changed. Artists drew cartoons on paper and were able to carry those cartoons to different clients. Sample books of patterns were also transported. Workshops stayed in one place through several generations, often attached to a cathedral that constituted their major employer. Finished windows were shipped to secondary customers at a distance. Studios joined together in corporations or guilds.
Silver stain, flashed glass (abraded rather than acid etched,) and colored enamels were widely used. The diamond cutter was used, making possible larger, more complicated pieces of glass. Leads became thinner and less important to the design. In the fifteenth century, the city of Bruges, Belgium had 80 stained glass operations. The glass painting style of this area shows the influence of woodcuts.
Although Gothic stained glass came late to Italy, the Renaissance style flourished early. It was championed by well-known artists such as Filippino Lippi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Simone Martini, Taddeo Gaddi, Pietro Perugino, Donatello, Paolo Ucello, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pacino di Buonaguida, Andrea da Firenze, Giotto, Giovanni Cimabue, Cortona Arezzo and the Gesuati brothers.
Flemish stained glass designs in the Renaissance are akin to the oil paintings of the Van Eycks; that is, they often show energetic forms and contrasting colors. A characteristic crisp fold in garments is evident in this period. Lierre makes use of much white glass in The Coronation of the Virgin in Saint Gommaire’s Church. The drapery used on all of the figures is white, set against colored backgrounds.
Large windows by Bernard van Orley in the Brussels Cathedral show the Coronation of Charles V. Dirck. Wouter Crabeth did windows in Gouda and then went to England to work. Henry VII of England brought Dirck Vellert from Antwerp and Barnard Flower and Galyon Hone from Holland to work on the windows in Kings College, Cambridge. The English glaziers who had a long tradition did not welcome them, but the Flemish had the King’s patronage, so the native craftsmen could only protest without redress. The cities of York and Norwich were very prosperous and have many parish churches with fine traditions of Renaissance stained glass. They were famous for their glaziers’ workshops.
Spain had no early tradition of stained glass because Moorish occupation limited Christian church building. The Renaissance is its golden age. Italian, Flemish and French glaziers established the craft after the Moors left. Two brothers, Arnao de Vergara and Arnao de Flandres who worked on the Seville Cathedral, are particularly noteworthy.
The Low Ebb
Experts agree that stained glass reached a low ebb sometime between the late medieval age and the nineteenth century. Why did stained glass fall from favor? The reasons were religious, political and aesthetic. The Church had been the principal patron of the arts. The new Protestants were hostile to elaborate art and decoration. Even in the Roman Catholic countries, the Counter-Reformation called for simpler religious buildings. During the Thirty Years War, Cardinal Richelieu ordered all castles and palaces in Lorraine razed. Their destruction saw an end to the glass workshops that centered in the area.
By 1640 colored glass was very scarce. This necessitated painting on white glass with enamels. The little decorative glass that was produced was mostly small heraldic panels for city halls and private homes. Stained glass that had been so popular just a few years before was no longer in demand. The glass craftsmen were in great misery, pushing their barrows from place to place in search of work.
The English Parliament ordered all images of the Virgin Mary and the Trinity removed from churches. The Puritan principles of the Commonwealth inspired English adherents to smash stained glass windows with vigor. (Some fragments of early glass remain in traceries, as they were too high to easily reach.) The cost of replacing stained glass with clear glass finally stopped the destruction. Sometimes shattered pieces, left behind by the vandals, were reassembled into windows with no regard for subject. In Brittany, a congregation covered a window with dung and mud and whitewashed over to avoid spending money to replace it.
In England, church buildings remained churches. This was not always the case in France, where, as a result of the French Revolution, they were often turned to secular uses. For example, Strasbourg Cathedral became a Temple of Reason. Some became museums, but many became stables, arsenals or storerooms.
Several factors turned fashion toward the classic style. Even before the French Revolution, the baroque style was associated with vapid royalty. Ancient Rome became a symbol for a republican, rather than a monarchical government. Europeans became excited by antiquities.
During this period, some windows were made in Oxford. Abraham and Bernard van Linge painted in enamels. William Peckett of York provided figures in enamels for the south transept of the York cathedral.
Sir Joshua Reynold’s design in New College, Oxford was executed by an Irish craftsman, Thomas Jervais. The American artist, Benjamin West, provided cartoons for Salisbury Cathedral. An anonymous writer in The Ornamental Glass Bulletin, September 1923, praises Francis Egington’s painted glass. The clerestory windows of Saint George’s Windsor were then being reinstalled in new frames, and at that time, Egington’s fired enamel colors stood firm.
Jean-Adolph Dannecker, a gingerbread baker in Strasbourg, wrote to the Superintendent of the King’s Buildings, Charles Nicholas Cochin in 1764, petitioning him to reestablish the stained glass craft. Cochin replied, “In truth use is no longer made of it because in neither apartments nor even churches do people want anything that might diminish the light. Thus in the event of it being proved that it (the art) had been lost and that it had been rediscovered, people would not know what use to make of it.” This is perhaps the origin of the term “Lost Art.”
The Early Beginnings of Stained Glass in America
Glass making was the first industry set up in America in Jamestown, settled in 1607. The English were running out of wood to fuel their furnaces. The endless forests and sand in the New World dictated the choice. To reassure his English investors, Captain John Smith wrote that the glass-making venture was a success, but the operation was very short lived. Bottles and window glass were the primary glass products of this venture.
In 1637 or 1638, Evert Duyckingh came from Borken, a Dutch-German border town, to New Amsterdam (now New York). He was a painter, glazier and “burner of glass”. The sort of small house windows he made can be seen in Dutch paintings: a small round, square or oval panel set in a background of clear glass quarries. The subjects, often a family coat of arms, were applied with enamels and silver stain. Several examples of this type of glass are preserved at the New York Historical Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; while they are contemporary with Duyckingh’s work, it is not certain that they are actually his work.
In 1648, Duyckingh took on Cornelius Jansen as an apprentice. In 1656 he requested payment for glass he put in a church, 2 1/2 beavers for each. Duyckingh also made a window for the City Hall showing the coat of arms of New Amsterdam. He wrote complaining he had not been paid.
Labadist missionaries arrived on a ship in 1679 on which Evert Duyckingh Jr. was mate. Their new church window was made by Evert Sr. and another son, Gerrit. In 1674, the Duyckingh operation passed on to Jacob Melyer.
In 1654, Jan Smeedes set up glass works in lower Manhattan to make roundels. Blowing spun roundels may be seen in old prints such as those in Diderot’s Encyclopedia. At first, the outer part of the roundel was in greater demand for glazing windows. The center with the punty mark was cheaper. Later windows of multiple “bullseyes” glazed in quarry patterns were quite popular.
Churches in early America were simple meeting houses of wood or brick and white woodwork. Stained glass was out of fashion or economically impractical. Old Swedes Church in Philadelphia, when it opened, had no glass in the windows, only shutters. Small shutters inside the larger outside ones were used in cold weather.
In the nineteenth century, William Gibson began the earliest known glass business in America around 1834 in New York City. This venture did not last, but he tried again several decades later and would promote himself as the “father of glass painting” in the United States.
Robert Bolton, elder of one of the most interesting families in American stained glass history, came from England when he inherited property in Savannah, Georgia. The family moved for a time to New York State, then returned to England where William Jay and John were born. After a time, the family returned to New York and built a home in Pelham. William was a talented artist and studied with Samuel F.B. Morse. They made some small stained glass windows for their home and followed them in 1843 with the first-known American-made figural window, the Nativity for Christ Church at Pelham, New York. These were followed in 1844 by the tour de force of the fenestration of Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, (today Saint Ann’s and Holy Trinity).
The elder Otto Heinigke wrote of them: “Let me tell you that there is nothing being done today the world over, that can compare with the vigor, the freedom and the fire of these remarkable windows.” Otto Weir Heinigke wrote: “I believe that group of windows to be the finest in this country in nobility of conception as an architectural decoration and as a comprehensive exposition of the history of God’s people from the Creation to Christ’s glorification in the Apocalyptic vision.”
After this job, William Bolton returned to England and opened a stained glass studio in Cambridge where he worked restoring the windows of Kings College. Another window by him was recently rediscovered at West Lynne in Norfolk, England. When he went to Cambridge, William attended classes that were not available in America. While a student, he married, but his wife soon fell ill and died. This so upset him that he studied for holy orders and became an ordained clergyman. He married a second time and had several children.
Meanwhile, his brother John continued to make stained glass in America long enough to do windows for the Church of the Holy Apostles in Manhattan. He, too, became a clergyman, and after one or two other charges, went to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. While there, he made the decorative aisle windows. The chancel window in that church is by La Farge and is a memorial to members of the Bolton family.
Many years later, a visitor from Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn sought out an aged daughter of William’s who was supposed to be on her deathbed. She had never heard of her father’s earlier career in stained glass. The story so excited her she arose from her bed and traveled from England to the United States to see the windows.
The year 19844 saw the commencement of a set of figurative altar windows for the architect Richard Upjohn’s Trinity Episcopal Church. Upjohn contributed to the design that was probably produced by Thomas F. Hoppin. They were fabricated by Abner Stephenson.
In the 1850s several important studios were established that would survive and promote the industry. Henry Sharp, Henry Belcher, Joseph and Richard Lamb of Lamb Studios and William Gibson (who had reentered the field) founded these studios. Despite these advances, the industry was still delicately balanced; it was growing slowly, which was a reflection of individual dedication and struggle. The quality of materials was limited compared to what it would be only a few decades later; further, the window artistry was largely derivative of foreign trends in the trade and decorative furnishings industry. By the 1870s, the economic prospects for the industry were improving. Scotsman Daniel Cottier and Englishman Charles Booth set up firms in New York and New Jersey respectively to capitalize on the expanded American markets.
The Gothic Revival in the United Kingdom
The English admiration for the medieval period is embodied in literature such Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, Goethe’s Faust, Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King, and as Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The wealthy built castles for themselves modeled on those described in the Gothic novels. As early as the 1740s, Horace Walpole collected medieval stained glass and employed one of the few stained glass craftsmen left in England, William Price, to restore it and install it in his fashionable Gothic mansion, Strawberry Hill. Many windows were sent to England from the continent. A few enthusiasts kept their interest in medieval stained glass and assiduously collected pieces being discarded that would otherwise have been lost. Some of these panels are in museums today, in better shape than if they had remained in situ. In 1802, an exhibition held in London consisted of glass that was saved from the French Revolution.
Since colored glass had gone out of fashion, little was made and the quality was generally poor. When the British studios became interested in restoring antique glass and providing new stained glass for Neo-Gothic churches, there was almost no appropriate glass. The person who is most credited with rectifying this situation was not a stained glass man at all, but a lawyer, Charles Winston. Stained glass was his hobby. He wrote a book containing his faithful drawings of medieval stained glass. His book included a translation of the monk Theophilus’ description of the process of creating stained glass. In 1849, he had fragments of beautiful old glass chemically analyzed and encouraged James Powell and Sons, Whitefriars Glassworks, to produce excellent colored glass. William Edward Chance also began experimenting with colored glass at that time, and in 1863, succeeded in producing an excellent red.
Although Winston’s book was about medieval stained glass, he also appreciated the pictorial style windows such as were being made in Germany in his own day. He was opposed in this opinion by Pugin and his followers.
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, was the architect who, almost single-handedly, established the Gothic style as the only viable ecclesiastical architecture. He started to build his first church in 1837. He then wrote Contrasts in which he stated that the classic style was pagan and unsuitable for the buildings of a Christian nation.
He thought the Gothic style to be both more desirable aesthetically and more moral. Pugin also designed stained glass windows. Various studios fabricated his windows, most often John Hardman of Birmingham. At the time, the revival Oxford Movement (within the Church of England) aimed at restoring high church ideals. This was evidenced by increased elaboration of both worship services and the church buildings in which the liturgy was conducted. Demand for stained glass quickly increased. The Cambridge Camden Society published a magazine, The Ecclesiologist, which circulated Gothic architectural principles.
Well before Pugin’s early death in 1852, other architects were taking up Gothic revival styles. Stained glass again contained flat decorative designs and lead lines that outlined and separated colors. Important studios and craftsmen were Thomas Willement, J.H. Miller, Betton and Evans of Shrewsbury, John Hardman, and William Wailes.
Twenty-five English firms showed stained glass at the great Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851. It is sometimes difficult to trace the studios that made the windows of this period. Parish records tell the donors more readily than the makers.
Other notable studios begun in this period include Burlington and Grylls, 1868; Clayton and Bell, 1855; Gibbs, founded 1813, stained glass production started 1848; Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1855; Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, 1855; Shrigley and Hunt, 1875; James Powell and Sons, makers of glass since the 17th century, began production of stained glass 1844; Ward and Nixon, later Ward and Hughes, 1836. William Warrington started a stained glass business in 1833, but went out of business in 1875. The others continued well into the 20th century.
Many of these English studios still in business during World War II lost their archives either as a result of bombing or because they gave them up for pulp to make new paper. English magazines record that some firms had employed over 100 men. They may have done other decorating work in addition to stained glass. Their work is still treasured today. Some of its characteristics are flat treatment even in scenic windows, greenish white flesh, delicate painting, quarried backgrounds with a decorative silver stained motif in each pane, graceful architectural framing (canopy) or borders and liberal use of silver stain.
A change in the philosophical climate was taking place in England and the world. In 1854, F.D. Maurice founded the Workingmen’s College in London’s East End. John Ruskin taught an evening course in drawing and design, and encouraged others to teach there also. When he was young, Ruskin often visited a friend, Charles Milnes Gaskell, who lived in a medieval priory. This probably awakened his admiration for medieval art and architecture.
Ruskin so loved the priory that he supposed the workmen who created it had been happy. He widely promulgated Pugin’s view about the morality of Gothic style. He wrote Fors Clavigera (Fortune the Nail Bearer), A Series of Letters to the Workmen and Laborers of Great Britain. It was never read much by those for whom it was written, but it influenced British socialism to a Christian rather than an atheistic basis like Marx’s.
William Morris’ philosophy was also socialistic. William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones went to Oxford in 1853 intending to become clergymen, but as the impetus of the Oxford Movement was then diminishing, they took up art. Ruskin and Morris would influence arts and crafts movements world wide
In 1857 William Morris, then a young man of 23, took part in the painting of the Oxford Union frescoes which depict King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Characteristically, he felt he could not portray knights in armor unless he had experienced the feeling of wearing armor; he had a helmet and a suit of mail made to his own design by a surprised Oxford blacksmith. To the delight of his friends he insisted on wearing the suit to a dinner party and succeeded in getting his head stuck in the helmet.
Morris soon realized his talent was not as a fine arts painter. The firm of Morris, Marshall and Faulkner was founded in 1861 because Morris could not find appropriate furnishings for the new home just built for him by Philip Webb. While the firm was a decorating company, stained glass was prominent from the first.
Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown had some previous experience designing for stained glass, but at first, the group knew little about fabricating. Their first designs were produced as a joint effort. Burne-Jones was a master of line and composition. Morris, a less expert draughtsman, was unmatched at selecting color, so they complemented each other’s skills. The glaziers put the lead lines in the cartoons. Ultimately, they employed over a dozen craftsmen who also did decorating work. Their wives and sisters were pressed into helping, especially painting tiles and executing embroidery.
In 1857, the original firm dissolved and the company was completely under Morris‘ control. Burne-Jones and Webb stayed on. As Morris‘ share of the actual work diminished, Burne-Jones was deluged with work. He accomplished a number of paintings as well as his work for the company. Evidence in their account books derived from payments made to photographers indicates that they began to use photographic enlargements of small sketches and repeated the same designs over and over. Morris died in 1896 and Burne-Jones in 1898.
The company continued under John Henry Dearle, who had worked with Burne-Jones for many years as chief designer. Morris and Burne-Jones were so opposed to copying medieval styles that they would not accept any commissions supplying windows for old churches. Although most of their stained glass was done for churches, they also did secular installations since they provided complete decorating schemes. Favorite secular subjects were illustrations of medieval romances and ladies personifying virtues, the seasons and the arts, especially music.
Ford Madox Brown designed a series of accurate historical portrait figures for Peterhouse, Cambridge University. While Brown and Morris were interested in medieval subjects, their style was uniquely their own, noble figures in classically inspired drapery on Morris‘ leafy backgrounds or energetic flatly painted illustrations
Many stained glass artists were influenced by William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, including Henry Holiday, at first exclusively a designer, he set up his own studio in 1891; Charles Eamer Kempe, who set up a studio in 1869; and Christopher W. Whall, who founded a studio in 1897.
Scotland also occupies a conspicuous role in the Gothic revival. Its style was different from the English. It was centered in Glasgow, which retains a greater proportion of its nineteenth century church and domestic glass than any other city in the British Isles. The People’s Palace, a museum, has a large, permanent collection.
Ballantine and Allen founded their firm in 1837. Ballantine learned the trade in England. Francis Wilson Oliphant designed for Wailes and fabricated for Pugin. He published a small volume on stained glass in 1854, earlier than Winston’s. Other studios were William Cairney and Sons, 1828; Hugh Boyle and Company, 1850; David Kier and Sons, 1847.
Kier was master glazier to the Glasgow Cathedral when it ordered windows from Munich on Winston’s recommendation and caused an uproar. Kier copied the Munich style.
Daniel Cottier was born in Glasgow and apprenticed to Kier in the 1850s. He went to London and enrolled in F.D. Maurice’s Workingmen’s College where he heard lectures by Ruskin, Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown. He returned to Scotland as a designer for Field and Allan of Leith. He set up his own studio for decorating in 1865.
In 1867, Cottier moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow. In 1869, he moved to London to open a branch, leaving his assistant, Andrew Wells in Scotland. Cottier’s style was greatly influenced by Morris. He founded Australian and American branches in 1873 and imported and dealt in French and Dutch art and furniture.
J. and W. Guthrie founded a decorating studio in 1860 which grew to prominence after Wells moved to Australia for Cottier, leaving them its work. John Guthrie moved to London to operate a branch studio while William Guthrie stayed in Scotland. They employed C.W. Whall in 1890 and Charles Rennie Mackintosh about 1893 to produce decorative schemes and what are now Mackintosh’s earliest identifiable designs for stained glass.
The Glasgow School of Art became an important factor in the cultural life of the city. When Fra Newberry became its director in 1885, he introduced decorative arts to supplement the conventional easel painting. Mackintosh attended the school from 1885. He was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and the Japanese, but is not thought to have been very dependent on any outside influences.
George Walton got the first commission for Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms, which he designed with Mackintosh. James Herbert MacNair and Mackintosh married the two MacDonald sisters, also artists. Mackintosh was an architect, but made himself responsible for the decoration of his buildings. His windows were in abstract patterns. His designs were published, and influenced the Vienna Secession school of art nouveau.
Charles E. Stewart, son of a stained glass craftsman, invented a “cameo process.” Instead of glass painting, heads and hands were cut and etched. In 1903 this was supplanted by the invention of acid etching, developed from the chemical isolation of fluoride in 1886.
An Irish stained glass craftsman, Michael O’Connor won a gold medal in the Exhibition International in Kensington, London, 1862. He was a heraldic painter from Dublin who moved to London in 1823 to study with Willement. He returned to set up his own studio in Dublin and moved in 1842 to Bristol, then in 1845, to London. Near the end of the nineteenth century, Edward Martyn ordered a stained glass window from Christopher Whall for his family’s church at Ardrahan, Ireland.
Martyn, who had founded the Palestrina Choir and the Abbey Theatre of Dublin, was interested in starting an Irish school of stained glass. He wrote, “If we are determined to have bad work, it is better to have it bad Irish than foreign.” He arranged for three windows in the new Cathedral of Loughrea to be executed by Whall in Ireland using Irish craftsmen. Whall was not able to stay continuously supervising the work in Ireland, so in 1901, he sent his chief assistant A.E.Child and two glaziers.
Child and Sarah Purser, a portrait painter who had become interested in the project, then set up a stained glass department in the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. The students helped in the execution of the Loughrea windows. In 1903, Sarah Purser and Edward Martyn organized An Tur Gloine (The Tower of Glass), a cooperative workshop for stained glass, mosaics and other related crafts. Purser ran the business until her death at the age of 94 in 1943, at which time, Catherine O’Brien took over the ownership.
Harry Clarke was the only Irish stained glass artist of the time not associated with An Tur Gloine. When Clarke was young, Irish stained glass was poor and usually ordered from pattern books. When A.E. Child began to teach at the Metropolitan School of Art, Clarke became one of his students at night while working by day in his father’s decorating business. He won a traveling scholarship and visited French cathedrals. A series of windows depicting Irish saints for Cork University’s Honan Hostel Chapel established his reputation. He is also well known for his book illustrations. At his father’s death, he and his brother continued the business. Clarke’s designs are mystical, otherworldly and opulently detailed. There is nothing else like them. Considering that Clarke died of tuberculosis at the age of 42, he accomplished a large body of work, mostly based on themes from Irish literature.
The Gothic Revival in France, Germany and Italy
The art of stained glass died out more completely in France and Germany than in England. It was first revived in France in 1800 at the Royal Porcelain Manufactory at Sevres under a Mr. Dihl, who came from England. Guillaume Brice researched early methods. The chemist, Alexandre Brogniart, director of manufacture at Sevres, conducted much research to discover medieval techniques. He wrote in 1802, “the art of painting on glass is not lost: we have all the means to exercise it.” Nevertheless, it took him 20 years after that to find the formulas. (Catherine Brisac, A Thousand Years of Stained Glass, p. 145)
From 1828 to 1854 Brogniart, with the patronage of King Louis Philippe, produced windows for the royal chapel at Dreux. They are painted with enamels on sheets of glass so large that firing them must certainly have been difficult. Artists Ingres and Delacroix, supplied the designs for the figures, and the surroundings were by Viollet-le-Duc.
A giant in the French Neo-Gothic movement is the architect and artist, Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. Viollet-le-Duc worked all his life to restore historic buildings such as the Chateau de Pierrefonds, the walled city of Carcassonne, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. He was interested in all periods, but the medieval was scorned at the time, and he felt he had to save it. He thought of it as the French national style. Though his restoration methods are considered inapporpriate today, had he not acted many treasures would have been lost.
Unlike other architects of his day, Viollet-le-Duc had practical skills as well as theoretical knowledge. He wrote the immense Dictionnaire Raisonne de l’Architecture Francais which contains a section about medieval stained glass.
In spite of the interest of the king, the methods used at Dreux did not survive the increasing knowledge of medieval techniques; that is, glass colored in the pot, painted with metallic oxide, fired and joined with lead. In 1843, Count Charles de l’Escalopier translated Theophilus’ Diversarium Artium Schedula, Theophili Presbyteri et Monachi into French. This signaled great restoration activity in Europe by methods that are condemned today. However, they were undertaken after much study. Full sized tracings were made of the windows before they were removed. During the work, architects, master glass painters and archaeologists made inspections in the studio.
Restoration taught glass craftsmen the old techniques, but they did not have today’s scientific methods. They treated corroded and blackened glass with hydrofluoric acid and scraped with metal blades. This was the best they knew, and they did not hesitate to replace panels they considered beyond repair.
In 1844, Adolphe Didron Sr. started the magazine Les Annales Archaelogique, which featured religious articles aimed at both artists and clergy. In 1839, the first modern “archaeological” window was installed in Saint Germaine l’Auxerrois in Paris; Didron produced the iconography, Louis Steinheil designed and executed the cartoon and Reboulleau, a chemist, made the glass.
Ancient windows influenced the style of the new. In 1845, Thevenot adapted the iconography and style of several windows in Bourges Cathedral to make windows for the Romanesque Church of Notre Dame du Port in Clermont-Ferrand. There was a wide use of medieval motifs during this time.
Parallel with restoration and imitation of the medieval style of stained glass, the “picture window” derived from the Renaissance continued to interest some practitioners. This style consisted of a single composition extending over several lancets designed in a more realistic, less decorative style.
In 1809, in a way that is typical of students, a group of young artists in Vienna defied their academic teachers and founded an art cooperative they called “The Brotherhood of Saint Luke.” Within a year, they were living in a commune in an abandoned monastery in Rome. They thought of themselves as following Albrecht Durer, who had traveled to Rome to study, and as being influenced by Raphael and Perugino. They were called The Nazarenes, first in mockery, but later with grudging admiration. They influenced the English Pre-Raphaelites, led austere lives and produced art with religious subjects, not all of it too facile. Best known of the group are J.F. Overbeck and Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Reproductions of their works were circulated throughout Europe.
The art of the Nazarenes was readily adaptable to stained glass because they used flat colors and bold outlines. They influenced stained glass even though they did not work in the medium.
Further German influences include Michael Sigismund Frank, who did his first glass painting in 1804, became the first manager of the Royal Bavarian Glass Painting Studio in 1827; and Max Ainmiller of Munich supplied some windows for Peterhouse in Cambridge University in 1855. Many consider Ainmiller’s most important work to be windows for the Cologne Cathedral in 1848.
Franz Mayer founded a studio in Munich, which at first, produced sculpture and marble altars. In 1860, the studio began making stained glass. The studio restored medieval windows and executed new windows all over the world. It is impossible to estimate the quantity and quality of the windows they sent into the United States. Their branch offices in London and New York functioned until World War I. They are famous for heroic sized picture windows, extremely representational, with all the saints unmistakably German, that is, fair skinned, robust and hearty figures. Still in business, they now fabricate for free-lance designers.
The Oidtmann studios for glass and mosaic were founded in 1857 by a medical doctor and student of chemistry, Dr. H. Oidtmann. Working with glass slides inspired him to study stained glass. He founded a small studio as a sideline, but it soon grew into a major enterprise with 100 employees. At his death, his son Heinrich II, also a medical doctor and stained glass scholar, took over the stained glass studio. He wrote the book: Rhenish Stained Glass from the 12th to the 16th Centuries. He, too, died in his 50s, leaving the completion of his second volume to his son, Heinrich Oidtmann III. When Heinrich III died at the age of 40, his wife continued the studio. After the devastation wrought by World War II, Heinrich’s two sons rebuilt the studio, which is well known in Germany today for executing the work of many prominent designers.
The Worlds’ Fair was originally a forum in which visitors from all over the world were able to evaluate and imitate each other’s products. The first Worlds’ Fair was the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851. It was organized under the patronage of Prince Albert to show off the products of the Industrial Revolution. The increasing wealth of the middle class and their increasing mobility, due to railroads, induced the crowds to come.
The poor artistic quality of the machine-made goods displayed inspired the Arts and Crafts Movement and its desire to restore handcrafted quality and good design.
In 1862 in London, Japan participated for the first time in a World Exhibition. The western world first saw the Japanese art and handcrafts, which were to become extremely popular by 1867.
In 1894, Tiffany glass was first seen in Paris when S. (Siegfried) Bing first exhibited oriental arts and ceramics. Bing was a key figure in the history of decorative arts. His Salon de l’Art Nouveau in Paris gave name to the movement.
Bing commissioned Tiffany to fabricate ten panels designed by top fine arts painters: Bonnard, Grasset, Ibels, Ranson, Roussel, Serusier, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vallotton and Vuillard. Most of this group belonged to the Nabis (prophets) whose credo was to use flat areas of bold color heavily outlined in reaction to impressionism.
The principal characteristic of the Art Nouveau style is its sinuous line. The principal subject is nature, whether stylized or realistic. The style varies somewhat from country to country. For example, the English did not use much opalescent glass and backgrounds are often light quarries with a silver stained motif in each; their domestic windows are similar to romantic book illustrations. German windows, on the other hand, show more heraldry, landscapes with castles, hunting and tavern scenes.
The sinuosity is prevalent in the Belgian and French decorative windows. The work of the Spaniard Joachim Mir is hard to tell from Tiffany’s stained glass. Windows illustrating national legends by Hungarians Sandor Nagy and Miksa Roth seem to be inspired by Morris.
Virtually every country produced “lady” windows like Eugene Grasset’s often-copied Spring. Executed by Felix Gaudin in 1884, it resembled the ladies on magazine covers and posters. Toward the end of the period some “Dignity of Labor” windows were popular. This is also the era of the large dome and skylight made possible by engineering developments.
Artists of most countries used some opalescent glass, although drapery glass and plating several layers were generally carried farthest in America. Enamel painting was generally used, not always successfully. German windows of the period show an artistic use of many mechanical glasses. The windows contain many molded and cut jewels and can be considered a precursor of faceted glass.
The term “Art Deco” developed during the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in 1925. Synthetic materials such as neon, Plexiglas, polyester, resin and plastics began to appear. It was at the 1937 World’s Fair that the world first saw what we now call faceted glass.
American Opalescent Glass
John La Farge is known as the inventor of the opalescent stained glass window and is the father of the American mural movement in the late nineteenth century. He was regarded as the premier American muralist of his time and an eloquent art critic. La Farge studied painting in France and with William Hunt of Newport, Rhode Island.
La Farge became fascinated with the suggestion of highlights and shadows in irregularly made opalescent glass and how the glass muted bright light and created complimentary tones to adjacent colors. He was intrigued by the potential to render realistic subjects relying on the effects within the glass rather than by painting on glass.
La Farge’s earliest opalescent glass experiments were conducted at Francis Thill’s glass house in Brooklyn; glass discs made by James Baker, a Manhattan window artist, also inspired La Farge. La Farge and Tiffany independently financed the experimental production of opalescent window glass conducted at Louis Heiht’s glass house, also in Brooklyn. Tiffany quickly began the production of pressed glass tiles.
Their glass experiments resulted in opalescent glass with multiple colors mixed in the same sheet. Under their direction, confetti glass; streamer; ridged; drapery; and thick, faceted glass nuggets and chunks were made at Heidt’s shop. Several glass houses also made great varieties of pressed glass jewels. In 1887, Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company began production; in 1889, they won a gold medal at the Paris World Exposition for their multi-colored window glass.
La Farge also experimented with molding opalescent glass to depict distinct subjects. An excellent example is the molded glass flowers in Peonies Blown in the Wind, made for the Henry Marquand house in Newport, Rhode Island. He also experimented with what he called “cloisonne” glass, which consisted of small bits of colored glass contained by wires and fused in a kiln. The Old Philosopher for Crane Memorial Library in Quincy, Massachusetts was the first example of this rare technique.
Several of Tiffany’s early windows exhibited the evocative potential in the new glass. A non-representational window for his apartment and the Eggplant window for the George Kemp residence in New York City used the irregularities in the material to suggest organic subjects, anticipating naturalistic approaches to Art Nouveau design.
In the early 1880s, there was a small group of artists who worked with La Farge and Tiffany who were also attracted to the medium of opalescent glass windows. The most important of these early artists were Maitland Armstrong, Francis Lathrop, Mary Tillinghast, Thomas Wright, John Calvin, Frank Millet and Joseph Lauber. Armstrong, Tillinghast, Wright and Calvin continued careers as full-time glass artists.
The realistic potential of the new materials to depict figures within natural settings was quickly realized by La Farge in his Infant Bacchus, done for the Washington Thomas House in Beverly, Massachusetts and by Armstrong in his Annunciation, crated for New York City’s Church of the Ascension.
Early in her career, Tillinghast created Jacob’s Dream in New York’s Grace Church. Her window was a fantastic vision of angels ascending a ladder within billowing clouds of multi-colored opalescent glass.
Thomas Wright assisted La Farge in creating several Symbolist Style works. Dawn at the Edge of Night and Autumn are works of stunning richness of color and detailed craftsmanship.
Armstrong created an Aesthetic style tour-de-force in his windows at St. Columbia’s Chapel in Middletown, Rhode Island. These windows are a joyful kaleidoscope of styles and opalescent materials available in the mid-1880s.
Lauber depicted figures of lyrical Renaissance grace in the Congregational Church in Montclair, New Jersey. Two spectacular engineering accomplishments were the stained glass dome in the Library of Congress by Herman Schladermundt and the Appellate Court Building in Manhattan, by Maitland Armstrong.
Persons of skill and taste designed opalescent windows in many areas of the country, including Donald McDonald and Frederick Crowinshield in Boston and J. Horace Rudy of Philadelphia. The oldest existing studio in the country, the J. & R. Lamb Studio, created a beautiful series of American historic scenes for the Plymouth Church, Brooklyn.
The largest studio from those times is still the best known today: the Tiffany Glass Company, which employed hundreds of people and produced thousands of windows. The company relied on a department of artists to design the windows. Artists Edward Sperry, J.A. Holzerm Agnes Northrop and Frederick Wilson were longtime employees of the studio. Wilson was the most prominent, designing strong, majestic figures such as in the Ivanhoe window. Wilson moved to Los Angeles in the early 1920s and designed painted Gothic windows. Northrop stayed with the firm for almost its entire existence, specializing in richly detailed landscape windows. Clara Driscoll designed many of the most popular lampshades, including the Dragonfly.
American Neo-Gothic Stained Glass
Makers of neo-Gothic windows referred to stained glass as, “the handmaid of the architecture.” The initial impetus to develop stained glass in the United States in the early nineteenth century was the early Gothic Revival among Anglican and Episcopalian congregations. The architecture called for decorative leaded windows to compliment the churches. The major American Revival architects, Richard Upjohn and Minard Lafever, designed the landmark Trinity Church and St. Anne and the Holy Trinity, that were discussed earlier.
Gothic was the preferred church style in America from the late 1840s until the War Between the States; the stained glass trade gained a foothold during those years. Like the Classical, the Gothic style never disappears, but reemerges in popularity from time to time. The early twentieth century was a very rich period for American Gothic stained glass.
William Willet laid the foundation for a new twentieth century revival when he founded his studio in Philadelphia in 1898. He designed windows of painted, richly colored antique glass with his figures reflecting a full-figured Renaissance influence that was the taste of the times. His wife, Anne Lee Willet, who ran the studio for a time after his death, assisted him in his work. His son, Henry Willet, was also a Gothic revivalist, but his preference was for small, jewel-like, early French windows.
The most prominent spokesman for the Gothic Revival was Charles J. Connick. He lectured widely and wrote Adventures in Light and Color, the most respected and eloquent publication on the art form in the twentieth century. Connick expressed the opinion that stained glass’s first job was to serve the architectural effect; this opinion was in sharp contrast to the painterly effect that had dominated during the Opalescent era. Connick founded his Boston-based studio in 1913.
Ralph Adams Cram, a Boston architect, was the most prominent spokesman for Gothic-style churches; many of Connick’s windows went into his buildings. Joseph G. Reynolds worked with Connick before founding Reynolds, Francis and Rohnstock in 1923. Wilbur H. Burnham began work in 1904 and had his own studio by 1922. All these Boston studios designed windows to serve the architecture.
Henry Wynd Young and J. Gordon Guthrie were New York artists whose windows feature elongated, graceful figures who exhibited more painterly character. Studios all over the country were attracted to Gothic designs. Several of the more notable were Emil Frei in St. Louis, R. Tolan Wright in Cleveland and Nicola D’Ascenzo in Philadephia.
Otto Heinigke was typical of these. A first generation American, unable to make a living at fine art painting, he went to work for John Riordan whose studio was successfully competing with Munich painted windows. Then, in 1890, he founded a studio with Owen J. Bowen. Bowen had formerly worked for both Tiffany and La Farge. A visit to the cathedrals of Europe inspired Heinigke with a love for medieval stained glass. Heinigke’s Statue of Liberty window on the cover of Stained Glass, Summer 1986, is opalescent.
Cram’s favorite stained glass studio was that of Charles Connick. Connick had apprenticed in the studio of the Rudy Brothers in Pittsburgh where he worked on opalescent glass. He later apologized for once admiring it. He moved to Boston to found his own studio and met Cram. Cram called him an American craftsman, “who can do a window as it should be done, with the spirit and technique that must have impelled the masters at Chartres and Paris.” (John Gilber Lloyd, Stained Glass in America, p. 67)
Connick said he used Viollet-le-Duc’s chapter on stained glass in the Dictionnaire Raisonne as the foundation of his work. Connick wrote a very popular book, Adventures in Light and Color, which he dedicated to Cram. He remained president of the Stained Glass Association of America for nine consecutive years during which time he ran it like a dictator. His second in command, Orin Skinner, was editor of Stained Glass for 15 years. Since Connick was closely associated with the architect who was the accepted authority, everyone adopted his principles without question.
The stained glass craftspeople working in the neo-Gothic style understood very little about medieval iconography, which no one (other than a few scholars) had cared about for centuries. They imitated the color palette of Chartres, principally red and blue, with touches of secondary colors. They imitated the forms, medallion windows for the aisles and large figures for the clerestories. They imitated medieval figure drawing, once called “stained glass attitudes.” Since the ideal in the church was a “dim religious light” they imitated the patina of the ages with thin washes of glass paint and picked out highlights.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stained Glass and the Machine Age
Wright studied engineering at the University of Wisconsin where he read Ruskin and adopted Pugin’s philosophy as his guiding principle. He embraced the integrity of materials; stone should look like stone, wood like wood, glass like glass. Wright’s designs integrated buildings with landscape and furnishings. He introduced a new direction towards open interiors, a perfect setting for clear glass doors and windows.
“Nothing is more annoying to me than any tendency towards realism of form in window glass to get mixed up with the view outside,” Wright wrote in an article in Architectural Record in 1928. His designs featured straight parallel lines and small squares in repeated patterns. The glass from the Coonley house has colorful circles like children’s balloons. The Martin house in Buffalo has over 100 leaded windows and a gallery between the house and a greenhouse. Unity Temple has a skylight of amber squares “to get a sense of a happy cloudless day…no matter what the weather.” (Erne R. and Florenc Frueh, Chicago Stained Glass, p. 64)
One of America’s greatest architects was Chicago-based Louis Sullivan; he also designed geometric stained glass and frequently used opalescent glass. Like Wright, Sullivan designed the glass as an integral component of the architecture.
C. R. Ashbee, an English craftsman, visited Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago. Theirs was a lifelong friendship and Ashbee, in 1901, in his journal quoted Wright, “My god is machinery, and the art of the future will be the expression of the individual artist through the thousand powers of the machine… the machine doing all those things that the individual workman cannot do. The creative artist is the man who controls all this and understands it.” This emphasizes one of the most interesting aspects of the age, the preoccupation with machinery as evidenced in art.
Tommaso Marinetti in his Manifesto on Futurism, 1909, wrote, “A roaring motorcar which runs like a machine gun is more beautiful than the winged Victory of Samothrace.” (William Fleming, Arts & Ideas, p.433) George Antheil composed Ballet Mechanique, a musical piece scored for planes, percussion and an airplane propeller. His piano pieces include Airplane Sonata and Mechanisms. Arthur Honegger composed Pacific 231, glorifying a locomotive. Parade — a ballet by Jean Cocteau with music by Eric Satie — was staged in 1917 by the Diaghilev Ballet. The dancers wore costumes suggesting skyscrapers. The score included typewriter noises. A ballet called L’Homme et la Machine with a stage set of machinery was performed at the Casino de Paris in 1934.
Stained glass also glorified the machine. A 1927 French exhibition catalogue including work by Jeannin shows a series of stained glass windows in a newspaper office depicting transportation of news by auto and boat. Paule and Max Ingrand, in the Paris Exposition of 1937, showed stained glass panels of an airplane, an ocean liner and a jazz band. In the same exhibit J. Largillier had a panel of a train. The great movie palaces of the 20s and 30s with exotic decors featuring artificially lighted panels and giant skylights and opalescent glass light fixtures are a true expression of art deco.
Twentieth Century Stained Glass in Switzerland and France
In Switzerland, the first symptoms of a renewal are found in 1895, thanks to the competition opened for new windows in the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, Fribourg. A Polish artist, Joseph Mehoffer, won the contest. The setting of those windows is a decisive date in the history of modern stained glass because they announced a renaissance on all sides. They were installed between 1906 and 1935.
The French artist Maurice Denis discovering the work of Mehoffer in 1916 wrote in his journal, “This is a kind of stained glass all made new. It is newer and more beautiful than we make in France.” Some interpret this as an indication that modern French stained glass was really born in Switzerland and inspired by a Pole.
Mehoffer’s windows are responsible for turning more than one painter to stained glass. Under their spell, Alexandre Cingria changed from a painter in oils to decorative art. Producing windows whose brilliance dispersed the shadows cast by trite religious rubbish, he and his brother, Charles Albert, began to write criticism of the current ecclesiastical art.
Even more effective were the results of Cingria’s work, windows of color so splendid that he was called “the Tintoretto of stained glass.” In 1916, Cingria, Maurice Denis and Marcel Poncet collaborated on the decoration of Saint Paul’s Church in Geneva. Cingria became the leader of a group of young artists who called themselves the Society of Saint Luke. In Protestant Swiss Romond, they engineered a rebirth of Catholic arts. Thanks to Cingria, this was the most fruitful of all similar European movements.
Worthy of much acclaim are Swiss artists Augusto Giacometti who is a brilliant colorist and Louis Rivier whose work is reminiscent of art nouveau style.
Hans Stocker and Otto Staiger shared the same goals — to revitalize sacred art. In German Switzerland, they started a group they called Rot-Blau (red-blue) which flourished from 1926 to 1932. They did the windows in Saint Anthony’s church in Basel. The ideas of these two Swiss groups influenced the Dominican Fathers Couturier and Regamy who took over the review, Art Sacre, founded by the Society of Saint Luke. They received so much publicity on the church at Assy that they quite overshadowed the earlier groups who had first voiced the same goals.
Louis Barillet and Jacques Le Chevallier founded a similar group called L’Arch et les Artisans de l’Autel, (The Arc and the Artisans of the Altar). Regardless of whether Maurice Denis took the new ideas from Switzerland to France, he collaborated with Marguerite Hure on windows in a landmark church, Notre Dame du Raincy, 1922-23, a concrete church with walls constructed of colored glass.
Since 1870, the city of Nancy had been a center of arts and crafts. Jacques Gruber worked there with Daum Freres Glassworks. A process of casing colored glass over white glass was first developed for decoration on vases. In 1893, Gruber adapted this cameo process to stained glass by etching with hydrofluoric acid, the same process touted as original, when introduced by Charles Marq as a way to fabricate Marc Chagall’s designs.
Father Alain Couturier, an artist, spent the years of World War II in New York, where he met many ex-patriot artists. After the war, he returned to France and began work on the important church Notre Dame de Tout Grace at Assy. Windows by Marguerite Hure had already been installed in the crypt and one window designed by Rouault had been contracted to be fabricated by Jean Hebert-Stevens.
The earliest windows designed by Chagall and executed in 1957 by Paul Bony are in the baptistry at Assy, as is his ceramic mural of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Because the community housed a large tuberculosis sanitarium, the aisle windows contain saints associated with healing by Maurice Brianchon, Father Couturier, Paul Bony, Adaline Hebert-Stevens and Paul Bereot. The church at Assy is an exciting one artistically, although its failure may be from a lack of homogeneity. It was the center of heated controversy.
Critics not only attacked it for daring to contain “modern art” but for having art by other than Roman Catholic artists. Because it stood firm, other churches had the courage to employ important artists who worked in contemporary idioms. Alfred Manessier designed the first abstract windows for the small country church at Les Bre[accent]seux and created a rare jewel there.
Twentieth Century German Stained Glass
H. H. Arnasson says that late 19th century German painting was “enmeshed in sentimental, naturalistic idealism.” (History of Modern Art, p. 154) This was also true of German stained glass. Think of the products of Mayer and Zettler. Revolutionary art movements proliferated in Germany and Austria about the end of the nineteenth century. They joined, broke up and rejoined like amoeba. Nearly all groups published manifestoes, most of which were muddy in concept. Werkbund and Werkstatte continued arts and crafts traditions. There was a little interest in stained glass in these groups, but not as much as in their English counterparts.
Theo van Doesburg was associated with de Stijl in Holland. In 1920, he met Walter Gropius in Berlin who invited him to come to Weimar to give two courses at the Bauhaus. This fine school united all disciplines of art and craft, its influence spreading more widely when it was closed by the Nazis and its staff fled from the country, many to the United States.
Josef Albers was doing stained glass at the Bauhaus. In 1922 to 1924, he made windows for a few villas in Berlin, now destroyed. Van Doesburg worked with Jean Arp and Sophie Tauber Arp in 1926 to produce a series of stained glass windows, their geometric compositions depending for interest upon thick lead lines.
The real progenitor of contemporary German stained glass was Johann Thorn-Prikker (1868-1932). He was a restrained expressionist and he produced fabric design, murals, mosaics, posters, and illustrations, in addition to a completely new style of stained glass. His first commission was for the fenestration of The Three Kings Church in Neuss, which he produced in 1911-1912. These windows were an important critical success but the conservative church authorities refused to allow them to be set until 1919. He worked in subject, symbol and non-objective styles.
Heinrich Campendonk was one of Thorn-Prikker’s first pupils. He produced a monumental Crucifixion window for a cloister in Marienthal near Wesil in 1926. His windows for Bonn Cathedral, 1929-1931, are notable for lyrical color and cubist influence. Anton Wendling (1891-1965), was also a pupil of Thorn-Prikker’s. Wendling is best known for monumental windows in the choir of Aachen Cathedral. They blend some figures with geometric ornament.
Erhard Klonk is another stained glass designer who worked in several media. He began his artistic life as a theatrical designer and a fine arts’ painter. He designed mosaic, laminated, fused glass and an interesting shallow carved wall technique called sgraffito. His stained glass designs are figurative, playful and naive.
Some consider Georg Meistermann (1911-1990) the most versatile German stained glass designer. In 1938, he produced his first stained glass, but this was destroyed in World War II. He was especially busy after the war providing stained glass for old churches that had lost their windows, such as Saint Marien in Koln-Kalk, (Cologne) fabricated by Oidtmann. He is well known for a giant abstract window in a Cologne radio station.
Ludwig Schaffrath has been called the most monumental stained glass designer. After Technical School he became the assistant and collaborator of Wendling, who somewhat influenced him. He renounced all pictorial art in favor of decorative lines. His first stained glass installation was the colorless glass windows in the cloister of Aachen cathedral. He also designs large mosaics of stone, glass and other materials. In his maturity, he had the courage to travel in new directions and has achieved new heights in his window wall in a railroad station in Omiya, Japan, which was fabricated by Oidtmann. This project is still abstract, but in the true sense of the word, inspired by light and water. It is right for the location in scale and color, which is bright, not monochromatic like his earlier work. He has great influence on young artists through his traveling and teaching workshops. His work always attracts publicity.
Johannes Schreiter’s first designs after school showed the influence of abstract painting. He developed a new style using light filtered through glass with prominent geometric lead lines. His later work was of a style that he calls “brand collage” and was inspired by burned paper. Jochem Poensgen, born 1931, leaned heavily on colorless industrial glass. He used sandblasting, tempering and incorporating plaques of cement. Carefully controlled light penetrates between repeated shapes. Wilhelm Bushulte, born 1923, turns to figurative abstract art. He developed his ideas in relation to architecture, as did his contemporaries, but his shapes and colors were more exciting than the usual German monochrome. He uses saturated color balanced against white opal glass.
The period after World War II was devoted to restoration, rebuilding and replacing destroyed buildings and stained glass. A new generation of stained glass artists reached adulthood after World War II, some copying their masters, and some developing along new lines.
Twentieth Century Stained Glass in England and Other Countries
From William Morris forward, the English produced a lively amount of work, but in more or less the same style, by more or less the same studios. Replacing glass destroyed during World War II resulted in some new work, just as it did in France and Germany. Most significant of all was the new Coventry Cathedral built in 1962. A whole new building was constructed at right angles to the ruins of the old. The two are separated from each other by John Hutton’s great sand carved window wall which allows a view of the ruins from the nave and of the whole nave from the grassy ruins through layers of wheel-engraved saints and angels. This is the masterpiece among masterpieces in this giant edifice.
The small stained glass department at the Royal College of Art began from the Morris tradition. A highly successful college exhibition in 1950 under the directorship of Lawrence Lee and an article published in the college journal brought the department to the attention of the architect Basil Spence. He approached the college about stained glass for Coventry and the students were invited to submit sketches. Scholars were to be paid like professionals to quiet any accusation of unfair competition.
Geoffrey Clarke, Keith New and Lawrence Lee won the commission to do the aisle windows as a team. These are on an angle, are seen from the chancel, and throw light on the altar. Spence chose the colors and themes; youth: green, the first flush of adulthood: red; midlife: multi-colored; old age: deep purple with flecks of gold; after-life: golden. The designs are semi-abstract.
Each of the three artists designed two windows in their color preference. Margaret Traherne was chosen to design windows in dalle de verre for the Chapel of Unity. The Baptistry bank of windows was designed by John Piper and fabricated by Patrick Reyntiens. Piper worked in many media before he turned to stained glass as his career matured. The collaboration of these two artists on windows for the Oundle School Chapel led to the commission to do the baptistry at Coventry. They produced the most lively, interesting work in England.
Patrick Reyntiens’ name is probably even better known for writing the first how-to-do-it book of recent vintage. The Technique of Stained Glass is very complete, geared to a professional approach and is considered by many to be the best of its kind.
Erwin Bossanyi was one of the greatest stained glass craftsmen in our era. He was born in Hungary and studied at the Budapest Academy of Arts and Crafts; he was exiled during World War I and interned in France. He worked for 15 years in Germany and, in 1934, fled to England, accounting for his inclusion with the English craftspeople. His work is in the Tate Gallery in London, Canterbury Cathedral and the Washington Cathedral.
In Bossanyi’s obituary, John Bayless wrote, “He poured his life and soul into his plea to mankind to turn the world into a community of love and mutual understanding.” (Stained Glass, Summer 1975, p. 86) After so much suffering and exile, his colors remained joyous. His themes are both naive and sophisticated. He alone did the design and fabrication of his work so his output was limited.
The earliest continuing studio in North America, founded in 1850, in Toronto, Canada, is Robert McCausland Ltd. The first McCausland was trained in Ireland. This studio does traditional windows, and has done two-thirds of all the stained glass in Canada.
Yvonne Williams, a native Canadian, after apprenticing with Connick and working briefly in the United States, opened her studio in Toronto in 1934. She trained many craftspeople such as Ellen Simon. There is also a group of Canadians doing abstract architectural stained glass heavily influenced by the modern Germans.
Australia and New Zealand
As Australians and New Zealanders became wealthy enough in the late 19th century, they imported stained glass from England. An unusual feature of it was the use of native flora and fauna as decorative elements. The depression of the 1930s put the few native studios out of business.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Australia experienced a cultural awakening. The arts produced, though based on European models, had an Australian emphasis. In the 1970s, a group of young artists began making autonomous panels. New Zealand has a lively tradition of decorative domestic windows. New Zealand students returned home after studying in the United States with news of the German influence. They also trace some influence to Japanese visitors.
In 1981, Ludwig Schaffrath lectured and gave workshops in Australia. An exhibition of contemporary German glass accompanied him to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. He also lectured at Langer, New Zealand.
Paul Blomkamp wrote a letter that was printed in Stained Glass in the Fall issue of 1983 in which he described his work in stained glass in South Africa. Because lead came was impossible to find, he began to use resin bonding but using thin glass, not dalles. Later, he bought a lead milling machine from Germany. Leon Theron is producing faceted glass in South Africa.
An American, Reed Harvey is teaching stained glass in Liberia. He and his pupils have created church windows that have a primitive naivete in Monrovia.
In 1875, an Italian-Swiss craftsman, Claudio Pellandi, made the first window glass in Mexico. In 1900, he established a studio for leaded glass, etching, beveling and silvering mirrors. In 1898, two North Americans, MacDaniel and Wineburgh advertised “Artistic Windows.” When MacDaniel died, Wineburgh merged his studio with Pellandi’s. Juan Navarrete was their designer. He taught Francisco Lugo, whom in turn taught Enrique Villasenor.
In 1920, Villasen[accent]or set up a stained glass department in the Architectural School of the National University of Mexico. In 1929, Diego Rivera produced designs for stained glass windows in the Palace of Health. The windows were executed by Villasen[accent]or. Mexican stained glass consistently won medals at International Expositions. In 1982, Rufino Tamayo designed a laminated glass mural that was executed by Glasindustrie Van Tetterode in Amsterdam. At 25′ by 25′, it is the largest laminated work of art in the world and it is installed in a museum in Mexico City.
Sometimes a stained glass artist is associated with more than one country, or at least, his principal work was not done in his native land. Arnold Maas was Dutch, worked for a time at the Rambusch Studio in New York, but is associated principally with Puerto Rico where his most distinctive work is found. He worked in leaded and faceted glass, mosaic and a process of his own he called “opalino” which seems to be similar to a process called “opus sectile”, which uses flat opaque glass, cut to shape, painted, fired, then used like a mosaic on a background and grouted.
While in New York, Maas worked with another better-known Dutch artist, Joep Nicholas. Nicholas’ grandfather started a studio in Roermond, Holland. When Joep was young he studied law, and painted for a hobby. When he began to win prizes for art, he slipped into the family business. He is responsible for impressive windows in New Church, Delft and New Church, Amsterdam. In 1940, he left Holland for New York. His daughter is carrying on the family tradition of working in stained glass.
Belgium and Holland have a grand tradition of Renaissance stained glass. Since World War II, a large group of artists including Eugene Yoors, J. Hendricx, Michel Martens and F. Colpaert have worked there in the contemporary style.
In 1902, an exposition that spurred artists and decorators to explore art nouveau designs was held in Turin. Giovanni Beltrami from Milan produced decorative windows for Casino Pellegrino in Vichy, France between 1905 and 1907. These are not very original. Scipione Ballardini, born 1889, was responsible for the revival of stained glass in Verona in the twentieth century. He learned from a French master and was engaged in restoring damage after World War II.
After his death, his studio continued under Ghidoli. Other prominent Italian artists include Salvatore Cavallini, Albano Poli, Giuseppe Nenci, Lino Boschetto, Lindo and Allesandro Grassi and Feodoro Wolf-Ferrari.
The windows in Fribourg by Jozef Mehoffer (1869-1946) were mentioned in relation to Switzerland. The artist studied in Paris where he was associated with the Nabis and exhibited paintings with the Vienna Secessionists. Some of his windows exist in Wawel Cathedral as well as in Switzerland. Stanislaw Wyspianski created stained glass windows in a Franciscan Church in Krakow, Poland.
In 1958, the Stained Glass Association of America was represented at the World Trade Fair in Poznan, Poland. Panels by six member studios and some apprentices were displayed along with many photographs. Henry Lee Willet was the official representative. He and a Polish stained glass craftswoman Maria Powalsz demonstrated the process for six weeks. At that time, he reported six stained glass studios in all of Poland. One had just been put out of business for stockpiling materials. When Willet returned, he brought with him a short film of the Dobrzanski stained glass studio in Krakow. The craftsmen are shown working on a set of saints for an orthodox monastery which are very beautiful and resemble Byzantine icons.
Emmanuel Vigelund, a Norwegian master craftsman, was born in 1875 and attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Christianna from 1898 to 1902. He then traveled and worked in Kroyer, Copenhagen and Paris. Vigelund won the Henricksen prize to study stained glass in France. His work has the quality of a book illustration, somewhat reminiscent of Harry Clarke’s.
Einar Forseth designed five windows for the new Coventry Cathedral in England, a gift from the churches of Sweden. Nina Tryggvadottir, an Icelandic artist, has work fabricated by Oidtmann in Germany. She designs with paper collage. Other prominent Scandinavian names include Bo Viktor Beskow, Sweden; Leifur Breidfjord, Iceland; Lennart Rhoda, Sweden; and Sven Erixson, Sweden.
Russia & the Baltic Countries
There is no tradition of stained glass in the Orthodox churches in Russia. When USSR invaded Lithuania and Latvia after World War II, Russia adopted their traditions.
Stained glass has been made in Lithuania for at least four centuries. The earliest stained glass artist to work in the Riga Cathedral was Anton Dietrich, who trained at Mayer’s in Munich and at Bruno Urban’s in Dresden. Alfred Kahlert, Franz Weber and Ernst Tod made additional windows for the cathedral in Riga. They are typical of turn of the century German work.
Latvian stained glass craftsmen include such men as Karlis Brencens, who set up a course in an art school in 1920 and Janis Rozentals (1866-1917) who created patriotic themes.
Stasys Usinskas (1905-1974) is the father of Lithuanian stained glass. He studied in Paris and his work is very representational. Algimentas Stoskus, born 1925, produced innovative dalle de verre using very thick slabs. His work is non-representational. His pupils include Kazimieras Morkunas, whose dalles look to be molded to shape; Antanas Garbuskas, who uses both dalles and leaded glass to make allegorical figures and conventional ornament; Anorte Mackelaite; Filomena Usinskaite; Kostantinus Satunas and Bronius Bruzas.
Marc Chagall’s designs for stained glass in the chapel of the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem aroused everyone’s interest. Simon Studios in Reims, France fabricated these in 1962; the panels were displayed in New York city before they were installed. Their theme is the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Katsutoshi Kuno, a member of the Stained Glass Association of America, reported that there were 1,000 stained glass artists in Japan in 1980.Unozawa is the father of Japanese stained glass. He studied in Germany and, in 1899, started a small studio in Japan. Matsumoto joined him in 1930.
Sanchi Ogawa, (1867-1928), studied art in Tokyo and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Between 1904 and 1911 he worked in several U. S. stained glass studios. He returned to Japan in 1911 and founded his own active studio, which continued until his death in 1930. The craft became immensely popular after World War II.
A beautiful Japanese stained glass magazine is published, unfortunately, however, not in English. The Japanese also have imported stained glass: Gabriel Loire has a tower of faceted glass at Hakone Open Air Museum; facade windows in Saint Anselm’s Roman Catholic Church in Tokyo are by Willet Studios; the stained glass in the Kyoto Cathedral is by Hans Stocker and Schaffrath’s window wall seen in the railroad station in Omiya.
The History of Dalle de Verre
The most successful and most widely accepted new technique in the world of stained glass today is dalle de verre, better known as faceted glass, which is set into epoxy or other material. Its process of production results in a mosaic-like approach of pure color effects that can be utilized in window openings or entire walls.
As John Gilbert Lloyd notes: “It returns to the primary function of stained glass to transform a wall from a solid unyielding object to a cascading, fluid mural of shimmering beauty. While the medieval craftsman, joining small pieces of glass with lead to make intricate designs, achieved the same effect for Gothic cathedrals, the earlier Byzantines transferred their mosaic patterns into colorful window designs. Present day development of the technique stems directly from this beginning.
“Thick colored glass was first used in a decorative way by Byzantine artists, instead of embedding the glass in stone, pierced the walls clear through and set it in as window lights. Arabic type examples can be found in Spain, apparently finding their way from North Africa with the Moslem Invasion. Although the actual glass is no longer in place, the feathery stonework grills that remain definitely indicate they must have been filled with colored glass.
“Both Persians and Saracens in the Eastern Mediterranean area, where the glass industry was born, set crude glass into wood, stucco and stone frames. With these examples the Gothic tribes moving west used similar applications in stone mullions in France during the fifth and sixth centuries. Viollet-le-Duc says in Vitrail, “In the East, things change but little and window screens of stucco and marble enclosing pieces of vari-colored glass which we find in monuments of the XIII or XIV centuries in Asia and even Egypt, must be the expression of a very ancient tradition whose cradle seems to have been Persia.” (Stained Glass in America, pp 87-88)
The Islamic law of prohibiting the use of human likenesses being depicted within the mosque, and simultaneously, the Christian practice of encouraging the use of figure likenesses of Christ — the Apostles, angels and saints — in all the decorative media of the church may have implemented the change to the thinner leaded glass medium.
The Middle Eastern antecedents of dalle de verre seem to have vanished for several hundreds of years, until the 1920s, when French glass artists, experimenting with various new architectural directions, revitalized the ancient techniques.
Early pioneers in the modern development of dalle de verre include Auguste Labouret and his collaborator Pierre Chaudiere. A prolific artist, Labouret studied at L’Ecole de Beaux Arts under J. P. Laurens and created many windows for cathedrals, railroad terminals, department stores hotels and ships’ dining rooms.
Labouret was born in St. Quentin, France and developed the dalle de verre technique in the early 30s while working on glass in historic monuments. The artist sought a combination of modern strength and durability with a depth of color found in old glass. The thickness, broken surface and cut edge gives dalle de verre its characteristically rich translucence. The negative matrix area that frames each pane of glass is visually much heavier than the lead in ordinary windows. This characteristic, as with the earlier Islamic pierced windows, enriches the color by creating a great contrasting brilliance. This juxtaposition of brilliant color and dark surrounds can be painstakingly achieved in flat leaded glass by elaborately painting or by a combination of etching and painting of flashed glass.
Dalle de verre lends itself best to direct and vigorous design. It is a broad medium that, generally, does not encourage copious detail. In the St. Christopher window that Labouret exhibited in the Pavilion du Vitrail in the Paris Exhibition of 1937, he demonstrated that it was not incompatible with figure work, delicate detail and even lettering.
A variety of forms could be seen at this 1937 Paris Exposition with the Egyptian Pavilion showing a typical Arabic style of glass pierced plaster encased windows in traditional patterns. This was supposed to be the real origin of faceted glass.
Variously called beton glass (beton glas), concrete glass or mosaic glass, the renewal started and by 1939 had crossed the Atlantic when a beton glass window was installed in the Chapel at the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec, Canada. This was designed and fabricated by Auguste Labouret and is believed to be the first such panel in North America. In the same year, the French pavilion at the New York World’s Fair featured the same “Magi” panel that had been completed in 1936.
“One of the Magi” is one of Labouret”s later works (1936), showing a good example of size and contrast of the glass. Note particularly the individual blades of glass set together in undulating rows. This cutting effect could only be achieved by using a hammer. Notice the ornamenting on the garment itself, the flowers, sky and stars, and the glass rods used. Contrasting in size are the larger pieces in the garment and jewel box (note the treatment on the edging of the jewel box). The flesh seems to have been traced and a matted texture effects the shading somewhat differently from the effect in St. Hubert”s work.
The English precis for the French article describing the window, “One Of The Magi”, is “This stained glass window, exhibited in L’Illustration, illustrates a revolution which has taken place in the art of fashioning stained glass. It is the work of Labouret, who has evolved a daring new technique in the manipulation of translucent materials. His windows, indeed, carry us far from the traditional method of setting flat pieces of glass in leads in the manner that has been followed for centuries. By the use of thick slabs of glass which he sculptures, M. Labouret obtains a multiplicity of facets about which the lights play with a colour and an intensity which suggest the fire of precious stones. It is impossible to deny the remarkable effects he achieves by means of this new method, and it is easy to imagine the wealth of decoration, which it may, in the future, confer on our churches and cathedrals. The several slabs of glass, it may, perhaps, be added, are held together with cement.” [Labouret’s earliest work appeared in print in 1930 illustrating the steps of execution of the center section of the St. Hubert window. The complete window appeared in the Christmas, 1936 issue of L’Illustration.] (Stained Glass in America, p. 88)
Also, in the 1937 Egyptian Catalogue from the Paris Exhibition, there is a window, “L’apprenti Sorcier” (Sorcerer’s Apprentice) which stands the test of time very well. Figure 10.4. This is by Jean Gaudin and contains 16 panels with vignettes of the story running bottom to top. While there are indications of pate de verre influences, it is a stunning window by any standard. (Pate de verre is a cast sculptured window; all the surface details are sculpted in a mold then the hot glass is poured into it. All the cast pieces are then assembled using cement as a matrix. It is possible that dalle de verre and pate de verre developed simultaneously as they have similar surface treatments.)
It was not until the end of World War II that faceted glass use became more accepted, and even then, it was an evolutionary process. The pent-up demands for new buildings in the United States and Europe after the war proved a fertile ground for the material, which was relatively easy to fabricate, comparatively inexpensive yet produced windows of brilliant color.
But, as Lloyd states, “Not until the completion of Sacred Heart Chapel in Audincourt, France (1951_1955) did the full appreciation of the form strike home. This large installation has been billed as the finest in France with the windows completely dominating the atmosphere. It is a concert in color, rhythm and visual harmony.” (Stained Glass in America, p. 89)
By 1950, additional windows had been fabricated and installed by Labouret for the St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec, Canada. The complete job called for over 200 windows of which he had completed and installed 30.
The work, St. Luke, from the circle window from the Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec, Canada, shows advancement of the dalle de verre concept. The cutting is sharper, giving a crisper look to the window; there is ample use of negative space. The stars in the background seem to have become Labouret’s trademark. The small amount of trace-like material used to delineate the nose, mouth, and ear of St. Luke, as represented by a winged ox, are surface treatments which are no longer used in this medium.
As news of these windows spread, it wasn’t very long before Henry Lee Willet of Philadelphia, who with several contemporaries, visited St. Anne to view them first hand. Willet remarked: “I was fascinated by the windows being installed; Labouret has developed an entirely new technique. He uses pieces of glass four to six inches thick which are held together by cement instead of lead. I thought the windows were the work of a young artist and commented to a priest at the shrine that it took youth to think of a new approach. When the priest told me that Labouret was 78 years old I realized the windows were even more amazing. Here is a man developing new techniques at an age when most men have retired.” Willet was impressed both by the man and the work, so he immediately contacted Labouret and arranged for an exhibition of his work at the Philadelphia Art Alliance for the fall of 1950, which was reported in the December, 1950 Alliance Bulletin. The exhibition included colored renderings, full size cartoons and finished pieces of dalle de verre. It expressed first-hand the media and all its potential to the American stained glass profession.
Lloyd points out that, “American studios cautiously entered the field with a few minor commissions forthcoming. Then came the revolutionary First Presbyterian Church, Stamford, Connecticut. Constructed in a form that resembled a gigantic fish, (although the architect claims this was not done consciously but rather for acoustical effects), it is said to be one of the most powerful modern churches in the world. Great walls of faceted glass designed and executed by Gabriel Loire of France literally saturated the interior with overpowering color. Controversy raged, as might be expected, but it led the way to new concepts and thinking in church design,”
The First Presbyterian Church, Stamford, CT provided the springboard for American studios to abandon traditional taboos and energetically make up for lost time.
The first American studio to design, fabricate, and install dalle de verre was that of Harold W. Cummings of San Francisco, California. The year was 1954 and the location was Belvedere, California for the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The media described as Vitrolith by Mr. Cummings was cast in concrete. The installation consisted of 12 nave windows approximately 17 by 144 inches in a vertical design with 72 smaller rectangular openings scattered in a starry-like clerestory.
Roger Darricarrere, a former pupil of Labouret joined Cummings on this project as a specialist familiar with the process. The design throughout is of an abstract nature consisting of soft tints of color accented by powerful bands of rich color. The glass was hammercut as practiced by Labouret with the design boldly approached.
Among early prominent dalle de verre projects is architect Edo Belli”s Moreau Seminary Chapel and Library designed by Father Anthony Lauck of the Notre Dame University Art Department and fabricated by Conrad Schmitt Studios. The monumental window walls admit a virtual lacework of colored light. The deeply recessed glass set in cement resembles a sculptured bas-relief of sparkling jewels.
Father Lauck describes the dalle de verre concept by saying: “Some materials have a more marked character about them than others. Among these is dalle de verre. Not only is it deeply translucent, but it transmits light in clear brilliant colors. The thickness gives more depth and intensity to its color. The unusual means of shaping it by chiseling adds to its character. Hammer cutting fractures the glass in uneven sizes with notched and somewhat jagged edges. Faceting the edges breaks up the surfaces with shell-like ripples and facets, which brings out forcefully the crystalline angular structure of the glass. Each broken facet transmits its own hue, catches a different angle of the sun’s rays or the sky’s brightness and brings a varied pattern of sparkling light into the window. It is precisely this unique and individual charm of slab glass that appeals to artists, connoisseurs and patrons alike — and many priests and religions may be ranked among these.”
The material used to glaze early dalle de verre was a portland type cement. In order to use this material properly, it was necessary to pour to a thickness of one to two inches on moderate sized panels and to a thicker size on large panels. The pieces of glass used to make a panel ranged from two to six inches in thickness; it called for a thick pour of cement to produce a panel properly. In addition, the weight per panel was considerable. Cement also requires that a wire armature be incorporated into the panel for reinforcement against breaking while the thickness of the pour required that the cement be adequately cured before moving. Curing panels (the process of letting the cement settle and harden properly), required additional wetting of the panels lest the cement dry out too quickly and crack. Finally, considerable clean up was involved once the cement was dry.
Moving a 500-pound panel up six frames of scaffolding for installation required a hearty crew of men and a crane. Proper placement and adhesion was needed to allow the panel to expand and contract within the installation frame to prevent breaking. A proper sash was also essential to receive the panel and the thickness and weight of the panel necessitated that it be a substantial one. It became apparent that portland cement did not have adequate adhesion to the glass and it was not uncommon for the cement and the glass to separate. Water could seep through and around the panel. When the cement was cast several times thicker than the glass, various internal stresses could cause the glass to suffer fractures. There were problems, shortcomings and limitations in using cement. Since it had been used from the beginning, many windows were cast from it, but now some began to seek a better matrix.
The search for a better matrix took some interesting turns. Some studios experimented with additives to various types of portland cement. About then, Sauereisen Acid resistant cement #54 surfaced. Apparently this material was formulated as a coating for surfaces that were exposed to various types of acids. Its use as a dalle de verre matrix was interesting. The cost was relatively low and it was a lot easier to use than the regular portland cement. It cured in 24 hours and was lighter than regular cement. However, it did not have much strength and required a wire armature and larger panels. The recommended thickness of a pour on a moderate sized panel was one inch. It was only available in white and its use with dalle de verre was limited. Then, Robert R. Benes of St. Louis, Missouri, had a better idea.
Epoxy resin was initially formulated to serve as a lining for the oil pipeline divisions of Mobil Oil Company. By coating the inside surface of the pipe with epoxy, any fuels passing through the line received less friction and incurred less heat buildup. This required less force from a pump to move the material. Epoxy was being tried experimentally on many applications. Bob Benes, working with the Jacoby and Frei Studios in St. Louis, formulated a special blend of the material for trial in replacing cement in dalle de verre windows. Several panels were poured of various sizes and thicknesses as directed by Benes. These were subjected to tests for tensile strength, expansion, contraction, warpage, longevity and the like. The subsequent evaluations showed that epoxy was by far superior in all ways to cement. It required less time for preparation, mixing, pouring and cleanup. It required no type of armature. It had a similar rate of expansion and contraction as the glass. When poured to a three-quarter inch thickness, a panel of 12 square feet could be handled by two men with little fear of breaking. It could be seeded with all kinds of aggregate for surface treatment; it cured for handling in twenty-four hours and cured completely in five days. It came in many colors. It was a very durable, strong and waterproof product, with great adhesion to glass.
Epoxy was magic stuff and though the cost per gallon was relatively high, it was just what the craft had been looking for. Epoxy and dalle de verre were joined from that day on. Benes applied for a patent and began formulating and selling this material to American studios. He traveled extensively to demonstrate the proper methods of mixing and using the material. Special formulations were made for special situations and special colors were mixed. If a studio had a problem using cement or another’s formulation, Benes always complied when called on for help.
Robert Benes traveled abroad and pioneered the use of dalle de verre set in epoxy to the masters of Europe who had always used cement. There were other formulators who soon began offering their product in competition. Some were terrible, some mediocre, but few were as good as Bob Benes’ Benesco.
American Stained Glass After World War II
The depression of the 1930s and 1940s diminished the amount of building and new stained glass in the United States. Because of the shortage of craftspeople and supplies, little activity took place during World War II. These two relatively unproductive periods closely followed each other and resulted in a renewed demand for stained glass when the war was over. Also contributing to this new demand was an influx of books and magazines into the country showing the contemporary European churches.
Architects organized tours abroad to visit the European churches. More Americans than ever before were traveling and taking slides to show the folks back home. It was not difficult to convince Americans that European styles were more up-to-date.
Architects offered clients new designs with stained glass. “Liturgical Renewal” churches adopted a floor plan supposedly derived from the house-church of the early Christians. No rood screen blocked the congregation’s view of the chancel. The pulpit, the font and the communion table were equally prominent and accessible. Sometimes the pulpit and lectern were combined into an “ambo.” Churches-in-the-round became popular.
Considering stained glass as the handmaid of architecture was bound to result in new forms and techniques. Also, the influential cathedrals with traditional architecture such as Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Washington National Cathedral began requesting contemporary designs. Stained glass, like the other arts, was welcomed in the church in new forms. There was an increase of Christian symbols as subjects. These recalled early Christians hiding in the catacombs. Congregations were supposed to be informed enough to interpret these symbols. It was a short step to non-representational designs.
In 1953, the Stained Glass Association of America sponsored the “New Work in Stained Glass” show. Prominent American artists were invited to submit designs that were to be executed by member studios. The success of this project was due to Harold Rambusch who was, first of all, close to the art scene in New York but also believed in the venture more than many of the more conservative members. These controversial panels were shown in several cities and got a fair amount of publicity.
American studios began to make windows in new techniques: etched, sandblasted, laminated, gemmaux, fused, plastic, gold leaf overlay, beveled and the immediately popular dalle de verre.
Dalle de verre windows were first seen on this continent in 1939. They were made in France and installed in Sainte Anne de Beaupre in Canada. Soon after the war, the First Presbyterian Church in Stamford, Connecticut, a church in the shape of a fish, with window walls by Gabriel Loire, was making headlines. American studios began to experiment and were soon in production with faceted glass.
The social changes of the 1960s slowed the church building boom. Christian money was slated for social action rather than new church buildings or for maintaining the traditional ones. The statement “God is dead” was heard. It was time for stained glass to find a home in the secular world again. After the pessimistic “beatniks” came the optimistic “hippies” spreading eastward from San Francisco where they were rehabbing the old houses, painting them bright colors and, of course, repairing the stained glass.
Before this time, the only way to learn to make stained glass was to serve a conventional apprenticeship with an established studio. There were few of these positions available and they were only open for young people who wanted to make stained glass a career within the establishment. To supply the new demand, people who had recently mastered the technique began to teach others and stained glass became a popular hobby. Beginners made “suncatchers” from pattern books. Some progressed to designing and making simple windows and door lights. There was an increase in literature about stained glass, especially glass appreciation. Interest also developed in repair and restoration.
This interest developed not just for medieval windows but also for stained glass from the turn of the century. As the international style of architecture faded into post-modernism, stained glass again became popular, not only in churches, but also in private homes and public buildings. A revival of Tiffany’s glass waited until the population as a whole became interested in nostalgia.
This appreciation for the past manifested itself in neo-art nouveau. Art deco, while it experienced a flurry, never came back with such an impact, despite the fact that straight lead lines are easier to make than sinuous lines. Leaded skylights in hotels and railroad stations that had been covered with paint were cleaned and repaired.
Larger repairs and installations were still handled by traditional studios that had better resources and engineering skills. They were increasingly pushed into the new styles and techniques by the competition from smaller studios that had evolved from the hobbyists in stained glass art and craft.
Starting in the 1960s the impetus towards new aspects of stained glass was going on over the whole country, if not the world. Students in colleges and art schools were experimenting with blowing glass in the wake of Dominic Labino and Harvey Littleton, who had developed a new small furnace enabling hot glass to become a medium for individual craftspeople. Interest also awakened in fusing and laminating and that spilled over into stained glass. As colleges and art schools put “hot glass” into their curricula, they also began to teach “flat glass.”
Sometimes the two disciplines combined. At this point we saw the entrance of “autonomous panels”. Autonomous panels are moderate sized panels designed and made as a statement by a single artist, meant to be treated as fine art and not decorative art, and with no relation to any architectural setting. Principal sources of inspiration are turn of the century stained glass and the work of German artists who traveled to the United States, Canada, Australia and even Japan to teach design workshops.
Stained glass became collectible again. It was also recognized as a prestigious field of scholarship. It had always had its few experts, but a new generation of art history students began to choose it as a major field for research. An organization called the Corpus Vitrearum Medievii was founded in 1952 under the auspices of the Comite International de l’Histoire de l’Art with the plan of researching, documenting and publishing all existing stained glass up through the renaissance — a gigantic undertaking.
With added support from UNESCO and the Union Academique Internationale, beautifully illustrated volumes on single buildings or geographical areas are appearing. This study makes it easier to learn about medieval windows which have been dispersed to different parts of the world than it is to learn about stained glass much closer to our own time and place. An equally ambitious project is the Census of Stained Glass in America, an attempt to chart every interesting installation in the United States and keep the resulting data in a computer bank.
These two efforts are evidence that stained glass is a serious field of study. It is ironic that interest in medieval windows should build at the height of new styles rather than during the neo-Gothic phase.