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.