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he originality of Stephen Adam’s panels at Maryhill Burgh Halls can best be appreciated against the backdrop of the practice of stained glass in his own time and in the decades before him. As is well known, a number of technical innovations added to the range of stained glass creation even in the medieval period, such as the introduction of silver (yellow) stain in the fourteenth century - - which, penetrating the glass itself in the firing process rather than being simply applied to the surface, expanded the range of colors available to the artist and also made it possible to have two colors on the same piece of glass44 — and of the technique of stippling, which allowed for shading while retaining a degree of transparency. Nevertheless, the essential elements remained the “pot metal” colored glass itself (i.e. glass colored during the production process by the addition of various metal oxides to the clay melting pot – iron oxide for red, copper oxide for green or yellow, cobalt or aluminum oxide for blue, magnesium for purple) and the black leading that holds the pieces of glass together and, in the best cases, imparts formal strength to the total composition.
With the rise of modern oil painting in the Renaissance, however, and the possibilities opened up by the availability of colored enamel paints in the sixteenth century, combined with a shortage of the old colored glass as a result of political disturbances in the seventeenth century, the traditions of glass painting were undermined. What had been distinctive about it – the carefully produced, richly colored, yet always transparent glass itself and the shaping lines of the leading – was gradually abandoned as stained glass artists sought to emulate painters and to produce effects similar to those of painting by applying new kinds of enamel paint to the surface of the glass, and thus rendering it increasingly opaque. “Towards the end of the fifteenth century,” one scholar writes, “the influence of Burgundian and Flemish artists, as well as new Italian Renaissance styles, began to be felt. The most important features were the use of receding perspective techniques, particularly with landscapes, and a painterly approach to subject scenes which treated windows as a single canvas, rather than as separate lights. Expressive, portrait-like images also appeared.”45 (Figs. 1, 2)
Left: Figure 1. Dirck Crabeth. The Last Supper [detail]. Gouda, St. Janskerk, 1557. Figure 2. Right: Abraham van Linge. Jonah and the Whale. University College Chapel, Oxford..
By the second half of the sixteenth century stained glass aspired more and more to achieve the pictorial effects of painting. A striking example of this new style is to be found in he windows designed by the Flemish artist Abraham van Linge for various Oxford colleges (Balliol, Christ Church, Lincoln, University, Wadham) in the 1630s. (Figs. 2, 3)
Left: Figure 3. Abrahan van Linge. East window of chapel, Lincoln College, Oxford. Right: Figure 4. Francis Eginton. Hope. St Alkmund's, Shrewsbury. 1795.
By the eighteenth century, stained glass windows had come to resemble oil paintings on glass. Some, such as the East window of St. Alkmund’s in Shrewsbury (Fig. 4), painted by Francis Eginton in 1795 after an Assumption of the Virgin by Guido Reni, or a painted glass window by William Collins (Fig. 5), derived from a tapestry cartoon by Raphael of St. Paul Preaching at Athens, were indeed copied from the work of celebrated artists of the Renaissance and Baroque.
Left: Figure 5. William Collins. St. Paul preaching at Athens. Enamel paint on glass after Raphael tapestry cartoon. 1816. Right: Figure 6. Joshua Price. Conversion of St Paul (said to be after Sebastiano Ricci). 1719. Now at St. Andrew's by the Wardrobe, London.
Others were painted after designs by living artists. Thus a window made by Joshua Price in 1712-16 for Balstrode Park, a country estate in Berkshire, is said to be based on a work by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734). 46 (Fig. 6)
Figure 7. Thomas Jervais. The Virtues. (after oil cartoon by Sir Joshua Reynolds). West Window, New College, Oxford. 1783.
The best known of such windows are now doubtless those at New College, Oxford, which Thomas Jervais painted on glass in 1783 after oil cartoons by Sir Joshua Reynolds. (Fig. 7) The Reynolds windows might have had to share their celebrity with the great East and Quire Aisle windows installed in the Royal Chapel at Windsor in 1779-2101 to designs by Benjamin West, had these not been removed in the mid-19th century in response to a major change in taste. As Eleanor Cracknell, an archivist at the Windsor Royal Chapel wrote recently, West’s “new East Window represented the latest fashion for vast picture windows, with large panels of glass being painted as if a canvas. This technique enabled the designers to create images which had expression and filled the whole space, without being broken up by lead supports.”47 The early decades of the nineteenth century saw little change: “There is, if possible, even less sense of the quality of the glass itself in a window such as Joseph Backler’s Ascension of 1821 in St. Thomas’s Church, Dudley,” it has been observed, “than in Francis Egerton’s Faith of 1795, after Guido Reni, in St. Alkmund’s, Shrewsbury. Though skilfully and not insensitively painted, Backler’s work is simply a coloured painting in enamel colours, mostly on clear glass panes of regular rectangular shape.” 48
With the vastly increased importance of pictorialism, two of the most essential features of the medium, the translucency of its brilliantly colored glass and the shaping role of the leadlines, were drastically diminished. Light no longer penetrated through the enamel-painted and shaded parts of the window. 49 By the 1840s, a reaction set in and as the Gothic Revival moved into high gear, Eleanor Cracknell continues, “the fashion for painted glass was dying out, tastes were changing and what had been all the rage was now considered vulgar and out of keeping with the medieval surroundings.” Thus, “the first of West’s aisle windows at Windsor was removed in 1847, to make way for a new window by Thomas Willement, and the East Window was replaced in 1862 as part of the Dean and Canons’ memorial to Prince Albert.”50
Responding to the change in taste, a stained glass workshop, founded in the early years of the nineteenth century at Munich, under the patronage of Ludwig I of Bavaria, achieved enormous popular and commercial success with a style that combined the painting on glass of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the use of traditional elements. “Munich windows,” according to one definition, “were made of traditional hand-blown antique glass” but “typically eschew the flatness and emphatic leading of medieval windows in favor of an idealized naturalism and spatial realism.”51 Stained glass from the Königliche Glasmalerei-Anstalt and its successor workshops is to be found in many parts of the world, including the United States and then far-off Australia. (Figs. 8, 9)
Left: Figure 8. Maximilian Ainmuller. Moses returning from Sinai with the Law. Peterhouse, Cambridge. 1855. Right: Figure 9. Franz Xavier Zettler. St. Stephen's Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane, Queensland. 1879.
At the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and again at the 1862 exhibition, the “Munich” style, as it came to be known and as it was practiced almost everywhere on the Continent, dominated the stained glass section, and the exhibits in this style were seen by many as superior to those of the English stained glass workshops, public criticism of the style by the English Gothic Revivalists notwithstanding.
Prominent among those impressed by the Munich windows was the already mentioned authority on stained glass, Charles Winston. “Any candid observer,” Winston declared in a paper read in January 1856 at the Architectural Exhibition, “must have perceived that, in the exhibition in Hyde-park, the English glass painters were beaten hollow by foreigners, in every respect, whether in those works whose only merit consisted in their conformity with mediaeval drawing, or in those of higher pretentions. [. . .] I question if more than two could be named which, in point of art, would bear a comparison with the modern windows at Munich or Cologne.” Later in the same year Winston wrote Charles Heath Wilson, the Director of the Government School of Design in Glasgow from 1848 until 1863, that “the West window at Norwich [1853, by John Hedgeland, 1825-98] is [. . .] the only English window, in point of art, which will bear comparison with the Munich windows.”52 (Fig.10) That window, not surprisingly, is strikingly close in style and execution to the work of the Munich glass makers.
Left: Figure 10. John Hedgeland. West Window, Norwich Cathedral. 1854. Middle: Figure 12. Thomas Willement, East Window, St. Peter and St. Paul Parish Church, Belton. 1847. Right: Figure 11. Baird Window, St. Margaret’s, Dalry, Ayrshire.
Munich windows were indeed being installed all over Britain -- in Oxford and Cambridge colleges, Gloucester Cathedral, Parliament Hall in Edinburgh, even St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, as well as in the churches of small towns and villages, such as Irvine (St. Andrew’s Parish Church) and Dalry (St. Margaret’s Parish Church) in South-West Scotland. (Fig. 11) Moreover, most English workshops were so focused on the demands of the market, the German scholar Elgin Vaassen has noted, that even those that usually turned out copies of early medieval windows “were quite prepared to provide a fully pictorial window if the occasion (or the client) demanded.”53
One of the triumphant successes of the Kgl. Glasmalerei-Anstalt was its winning the commission, in 1857, to create an entire set of stained glass windows for Glasgow’s thirteenth-century Cathedral, a few paid for by the British government, most by local subscribers. The Subscribers Committee’s award of the commission to the Bavarians, which had been strongly endorsed by Winston, provoked a lively and sometimes angry debate between supporters and opponents of the decision. While some of the opposition was certainly motivated by frustration at the loss of such an important assignment to a foreign workshop, opposition to the Bavarians was also inspired by genuine disapproval of their methods and style.54
Three Pre-Raphaelite windows. Left: Figure 13. Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Sir Tristram and la belle Ysoude. 1862. Middle: Figure 14. William Morris. Queen Guenevere and Isoude. Les Blanches Mains. Right: Figure 15. Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Temptation of Adam. Jesus College, Cambridge.
The champions of the Gothic Revival, whose aim was to return to the pure practice of the medieval stained glass craftsmen, rejected the Munich style as a matter of principle. In this they were followed in large measure, albeit far less dogmatically, by the innovating Pre-Raphaelites and, a few years later, by the adherents of William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement. Their common position was expressed by John Ruskin in an appendix to vol. II of The Stones of Venice (1851-1853):
In the case of windows, the points which we have to insist upon are, the transparency of the glass and its susceptibility of the most brilliant colours; and therefore the attempt to turn painted windows into pretty pictures is one of the most gross and ridiculous barbarisms of this pre-eminently barbarous century. It originated, I suppose, with the Germans [. . .]; but it appears of late to have considerable chance of establishing itself in England: and it is a two-edged error, striking in two directions; first at the healthy appreciation of painting, and then at the healthy appreciation of glass. [. . .] This modern barbarism destroys the true appreciation of the qualities of glass. It denies, and endeavors as far as possible to conceal, the transparency, which is not only its great virtue in a merely utilitarian point of view, but its great spiritual character; the character by which in church architecture it becomes [. . .] typical of the entrances of the Holy Spirit into the heart of man; [. . .] and therefore in endeavoring to turn the window into a picture, we at once lose the sanctity and power of the noble material, and employ it to an end which is utterly impossible it should ever worthily attain. The true perfection of a painted window is to be serene, intense, brilliant, like flaming jewellery; full of easily legible and quaint subjects, and exquisitely subtle, yet simple, in its harmonies. In a word, this perfection has been consummated in the designs, never to be surpassed, if ever again to be approached by human art, of the French windows of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.55
Ruskin’s judgment, which was also that expressed in the clearest possible terms around the same time by the great French architectural scholar and restorer of medieval buildings, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc,56 was confirmed as late as the first decade of the twentieth century by Lewis F. Day, the Vice-President of the Society of Arts and the author of many books on design and ornament.
It is usual to confound ‘stained’ with ‘painted’ glass. Literally speaking, these are two quite distinct things. Stained glass is glass which is coloured, as the phrase goes ‘in the pot.’ [. . .] In painted glass, on the other hand, the colour is not in the glass but upon it, more or less firmly attached to the glass by the action of the fire. [. . .] Strictly speaking, then, stained and painted glass are the very opposite one to the other. But in practice the two processes of glazing and painting were not long kept apart. The very earliest glass was no doubt pure mosaic. It was only in our own day that the achievement (scientific rather than artistic) of a painted window of any size, independent of glazier’s work, was possible. Painting was at first subsidiary to glazier’s work; after that for a time, glazier and painter worked hand in hand upon equal terms; eventually the painter took precedence and the glazier became ever more and more subservient to him. But from the twelfth to the seventeenth century, there is little of what we call, rather loosely, sometimes ‘stained’ and sometimes ‘painted’ glass, in which there is not both staining and painting; that is to say, stained glass is used and there is painting upon it. The difference is that in the earlier work the painting is only used to help out the stained glass and in the later the stained glass is introduced to help the painting. 57
The bottom line is that “the finest work in glass which aims at the pictorial and depends upon painting ends always in being either thin or opaque in effect. [. . .] Pictures being what they are, what they were already by the end of the sixteenth century, pictorial treatment does not make for good stained glass.” 58
Ruskin and Day expressed the point of view — and, following the example set by Thomas Willement in the 1840s (Fig. 12), the practice — adopted by most British stained-glass workshops, whether they simply churned out more or less decent copies of medieval windows or were run by craftsmen/artists. Thus in his Treatise of Painted Glass of 1845 James Ballantine of Edinburgh, Stephen Adam’s first teacher and employer, had already expressed concern that “in Bavaria, where the art of painting on glass has been practised recently, the glass artists, although skilful in their manipulation, have lost sight of the leading principles of their art.” The essential requirements of true stained glass art, in Ballantine’s view, are, first, the use of pot metal colored glass, for “the brilliant colour and mosaic character are lost in the same ratio as shading is attempted” and, in addition, “fluxed colours do not penetrate the glass, but are merely vitrified on its surface and are therefore neither transparent nor enduring”; and, second, the use of leadlines “to convey a distinct idea of form.” “Shew your artistic skill,” he urged the glass-maker, “in making the leaden lines, as far as possible, appear your outline.”59 These recommendations of Ballantine were endorsed and, on the whole, followed by the most serious nineteenth-century English stained glass artists – by Pugin’s protégés, John Hardman and the latter’s nephew John Hardman Powell (the husband of Pugin’s daughter), by the Pre-Raphaelites Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Morris, and by the latter's followers in the Arts and Crafts Movement (figs. 13 - 16), as well as by the best known Scottish stained-glass artists – Daniel Cottier, Stephen Adam himself, and their immediate successors Alf Webster, Oscar Paterson, and David Gauld. (Figs. 17-20)
Left: Figure 16. Caroline Townshend. Fabian stained glass window, London School of Economics. 1910. Middle left: Figure 17. Daniel Cottier. Miriam. Dowanhill Church, Hyndland Street, Glasgow. 1865-66. Middle: Figure 18. Alf Webster. First Fruits. In Memory of Stephen Adam. New Kilpatrick Parish Church. 1911. Middle right: Figure 19. Oscar Paterson. The Quaint Village. Doorway at 28 Bute Gardens, Hillhead, Glasgow. c. 1890. Right: Figure 20. David Gauld. Music. 1891. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Adam’s position with respect to the esthetics of stained glass was more nuanced, however, than that of the most dogmatic Gothic Revivalists or than his occasionally harsh criticisms of the painterly style in general and of the Munich windows in particular would suggest. It turns out, in fact, to be not significantly different from that presented by Charles Winston in his groundbreaking Inquiry, which appeared just a few years before Ruskin’s Stones of Venice. Though Winston brought his considerable influence to bear on Charles Heath Wilson, who, as head of both the Glasgow School of Design and the Committee of Subscribers, led the negotiations with the Bavarians on the new stained glass windows for Glasgow Cathedral, his own judgment of Munich glass was by no means uncritical. While pointing to what he considered its deficiencies, however, and urging Wilson to pressure the Bavarians into abandoning some of their practices in their work for Glasgow, Winston also freely acknowledged the artistry of the work of the Munich school and took care to draw a line between his own views and those of diehard Gothic Revivalists. As Adam appears to have been a close reader of Winston, it will be useful to offer a summary account of Winston’s position before taking up Adam’s own essays on stained glass of three decades later.
45 Rosewell, Stained Glass, p. 40.
46 Now in the church of St. Andrew by the Wardrobe in London
48 A. Charles Sewter, The Stained Glass of William Morris and his Circle, p. 5.
49 On techniques of stained glass production, see Winston, Inquiry, pp. 4-6; and the excellent exposition in John Harries, Discovering Stained Glass, 3rd ed. (Princes Risborough: Shire Publications, 2006 [1st. ed. 1996]), pp. 18-31.
50 Eleanor Cracknell (as in note 47 above): “Henry Poole & Sons of Westminster were employed to remove the eighteenth century glass in August 1862 [. . .] and to pack it into four cases. A.Y. Nutt, Chapter Surveyor, remarked in 1878 that no satisfactory reply had been obtained as to where the window went or what became of the cases [. . .]. The other two Aisle windows were replaced around 1869 as part of the new scheme by Clayton and Bell. Carefully numbered squared designs were created suggesting they were also packed away for storage.” It is unfortunately characterstic of the fate of stained glass in general that “the whereabouts of these four windows is now unknown.”
51 Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, 2007 (website). That judgment needs to be somewhat modified. It is assuredly not an accident that many of the designers of Munich glass were artists associated with the so-called Nazarene painters of the early nineteenth century. Looking back from baroque and rococo styles of painting to the art of the early Renaissance, these painters favored clear and simple lines and flat colors. Their artistic style was thus more readily adaptable to the medium of stained glass than that of much contemporary art.
52 Paper “On the Application of Painted Glass in Architecture,” printed in The Builder, Feb. 9, 1856, pp.71-72; letter from Winston to C.H. Wilson, Director of the Glasgow School of Art, 20 April 1856, in Memoirs Illustrative of the Art of Glass Painting by the late Charles Winston, ed. Philip H. Delamotte (London: John Murray, 1865), p. 22. Italics in text. Wilson was completely convinced by Winston. In 1868 he responded in the strongest terms to a critic of the Munich windows he had had installed in Glasgow Cathedral in the 1850s and 60s:
Before we commenced our undertaking, we visited many of the noble cathedrals, beautiful parish churches, and college chapels of England. We wished to ascertain what Englishmen had done for the appropriate decoration of these noble heritages, [. . .] that we might profit from their example. We found nowhere a vestige of forethought, of reasonable plan, of attention to the unity of thought observable in the architecture, hardly any even to its style, and we saw acres of modern painted glass, which, with a few rare examples here and there, is the veriest rubbish considered as art which is to be found anywhere [. . .] The figure portions, especially, of the great mass of these windows are utterly beneath criticism. We naturally turned away from all imitation of such works, from all trust in such artists. If you prefer them in England, that is your affair. [But] we will not acknowledge your authority or accept your guidance with these results of your taste, skill and judgment before us, and we may be pardoned for thinking that a little modesty in the expression of criticism befits those who have filled their superb cathedrals with such examples of the worst art that the world ever saw.” [Letter to the editor, The Building News and Engineering Journal (8 February 1868), 13: 91.]
According to Martin Harrison, “In 1851 originality was not a priority for most firms, and they were intent on showing that they had sufficient antiquarian expertise to be able to offer windows which would suit any building style.” (Victorian Stained Glass [as in note 30 above], pp. 24, 35)
53 Elgin Vaassen, Bilder auf Glas. Glasgemälde zwischen 1780 und 1870 (Munich and Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1997), pp. 94-95; on the popularity of Munich Glass in Great Britain, see id. , “Stained Glass Windows for the United Kingdom by the Königliche Glasmalereianstalt in Munich, and their painting technique,” in Glasgow’s Great Glass Experiment: The Munich Glass of Glasgow Cathedral, pp. 35-45.
54 On the award of this commission, the negotiations leading up to it and the works produced to execute it, see Elgin Vaassen, Die kgl. Glasmalereianstalt in München 1827-1874 (Munich and Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2013), pp. 269-318. See also the detailed accounts by George Rawson, “The Cathedral Glazing Campaign 1855-1864” and Sally Rush, “Ungrateful Posterity? The Removal of the ‘Munich’ Windows from Glasgow Cathedral,” in Glasgow’s Great Glass Experiment: The Munich Glass of Glasgow Cathedral, pp. 21-33, 47-65. That objections to the Munich style were not simply chauvinistic is indicated by the vehement criticism provoked in Germany by the installing of Munich windows in Cologne Cathedral; see Elgin Vaassen, “Stained Glass Windows for the United Kingdom by the Königliche Glasmalereianstalt in Munich, and their painting technique,” pp. 35-45 on p. 36.
55 John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice (New York and Chicago: National Library Association, n.d.), II, 396-97. A more extreme view, expressed by the Gothic Revival architect George Edmund Street in a paper on Glass Painting that appeared in 1852 in The Ecclesiologist, the organ of the Cambridge Camden Society, was summarised as follows in Mathé Shepheard’s City of Birmingham University M. Phil. thesis of 2007 on the John Hardman Stained Glass Company of Birmingham: “The windows were to be merely light giving’ and ‘the object of a window being to let light in, glass is the worst that artificially shuts out light. It must therefore if good, be very transparent.’ The pastoral role was reserved for the walls which were to offer a portrayal of the liturgical message in colourful frescoes: ‘It is absolutely necessary that the design of the glass should never interfere with or oppose the design of the stonework.’ The glass should in all cases be treated as subordinate to it.” (Shepheard on Powys-Lannion.net)
56 Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XI au XVI siècle, article “Vitrail,” 9.384-85. As this interesting text is not readily accessible, I cite it at length:
Ce qui a été oublié pendant plusieurs siècles, ce sont les seuls et vrais moyens qui conviennent à la peinture sur verre, moyens indiqués par l’observation des effets de la lumière et de l’optique; moyens parfaitement connus et appliqués par les verriers des XIIe et XIIIe siècles. Négligés à dater du XVe siècle, et dédaignés depuis, en dépit, comme nous l’avons dit, de ces lois immuables imposées par la lumière et l’optique. Vouloir reproduire ce qu’on appelle un tableau, c’est-à-dire une peinture dans laquelle on cherche à rendre les effets de la perspective linéaire et de la perspective aérienne, de la lumière et des ombres avec toutes leurs transitions, sur un panneau de couleurs translucides, est une entreprise aussi téméraire que de prétendre rendre les effets des voix humaines avec des instruments à cordes. Autre procédé, autres conditions, autre branche de l’art. Il y a presque autant de distance entre la peinture dite de tableaux, la peinture opaque, cherchant à produire l’illusion, et la peinture sur verre, qu’il y en a entre cette même peinture opaque et un bas-relief.[. . .] Dans une peinture opaque, dans un tableau, le rayonnement des couleurs est absolument soumis au peintre qui, par les demi-teintes, les ombres diverses d’intensité et de valeur suivant les plans, peut le diminuer ou l’augmenter à sa volonté. Le rayonnement des couleurs translucides dans les vitraux ne peut être modifié par l’artiste; tout son talent consiste à en profiter suivant une donnée harmonique sur un seul plan, comme un tapis.[. . .] Quoi qu’on fasse, une verrière ne représente jamais et ne peut représenter qu’une surface plane, elle n’a même ses qualités réelles qu’à cette condition; toute tentative faite pour présenter à l’œil plusieurs plans détruit l’harmonie colorante, sans faire illusion au spectateur. [. . .] La peinture translucide ne peut se proposer pour but que le dessin appuyant aussi énergiquement que possible une harmonie de couleurs, et le résultat est satisfaisant comme cela. Vouloir introduire les qualités propres à la peinture opaque dans la peinture translucide, c’est perdre les qualités précieuses de la peinture translucide sans compensation possible. Ce n’est point ici une question de routine ou d’affection aveugle pour un art que l’on voudrait maintenir dans son archaïsme, ainsi qu’on le prétend parfois; c’est une de ces questions absolues, parce que (nous ne saurions trop le répéter) elles sont résolues par des lois physiques auxquelles nous ne pouvons rien changer.
57 Lewis F. Day, Windows: A Book about Stained and Painted Glass, 3rd ed. (London: B.T. Batsford; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909), pp. 5-6. In the same vein, only a few years before Adam opened his workshop in Glasgow, the brilliant Glasgow-born designer Christopher Dresser declared in a chapter on Stained Glass in his Principles of Decorative Design that
a window should never appear as a picture with parts treated in light and shade. The foreshortening of the parts, and all perspective treatments are best avoided, as far as possible. I do not say that the human figure, the lower animals, and plants must not be delineated upon window glass, for, on the contrary, they may be so treated as not only to be beautiful, but also to be a consistent decoration of glass; but this I do say, that many stained windows are utterly spoiled through the window being treated as a picture, and not as a protection from the weather and as a source of light. If pictorially treated subjects are employed upon window glass, they should be treated very simply, and drawn in bold outline without shading and the parts should be separated from each other by varying their colours. [Christopher Dresser, Principles of Decorative Design (London/Paris/New York: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873), p. 153]
58 Day, Windows, p. 232. Still later, in 1918, William Willett, who had been commissioned to provide the windows of Procter Hall in Princeton University’s neo-Gothic Graduate College, noted that while he recognized the great American maker of stained glass windows, John La Farge (for whom he himself had formerly worked), as a “true artist,” he was “fundamentally opposed to the use of opalescent glass as well as to La Farge’s pictorial approach to window design.” According to Willett, “legitimate stained glass should be nothing more or less than a flat, formalistic, transparent section of the wall which supports it; unobtrusive and forming an integral part of the architectural whole.” (Cit. in Johanna G. Seasonwein, Princeton and the Gothic Revival 1870-1930, exhib. cat. [Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, 2012], pp. 86-87) Later still, Herbert Read, after referring to Ruskin, outlined the contrasting features of the earlier stained glass, represented by a medallion from Canterbury Cathedral, and the later pictorial work, represented by a window at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Features of the former are “two-dimensionality”; “stylization” rather than realism (elongation of the figures, exaggerated rhythm of folds and fluttering garments), resulting in great esthetic effect and expressiveness; “symbolism” (“no attempt to represent the scene in its completeness; a tree is sufficient to indicate the open country, or one house a town”); “arbitrary use of colour” (“not with imitative aims, [. . . ] composed , rather than copied”). Features of the later, pictorial glass are “three- dimensionality”; “naturalism” of figures and of setting; “a natural use of colour” in which “grass is green, the sky blue, and everything very much as we see it in nature.” (Herbert Read, English Stained Glass [London and New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926], pp. 10-11)
59 James Ballantine, Treatise on Painted Glass (London: Chapman and Hall; Edinburgh: John Menzies, 1845), pp. 21-23. It is worth noting that these comments ante-date by a decade Ballantine’s competition with the Munich Königliche Glasmalerei-Anstalt for the Glasgow Cathedral windows commission.
Created 6 June 2016
Last modified 29 July 2016