Jesus with Mary Magdalene, at St Mary's, Walton-on-Thames

Michael O'Connor (1801-67) was one of the more prominent stained glass artists of the mid-century, along with his son Arthur (1826-73), who became a partner in about 1851. Two other sons would join the firm: William Henry, in the 1860s, and William George Taylor (born 1822) in 1873. William took over from 1877, first under the name of Taylor & O'Connor and then under the name of Taylor & Clifton (see "Michael and Arthur O'Connor").

Dublin-born Michael O'Connor started out as a heraldic painter, and this training would later give his firm an edge when it came to emblematic widows like The Adoration of the Lamb at All Saints, Margaret Street. Heraldry had been an important element of early stained glass: witness, for example, Charles Winston's extensive discussion of the heraldry in the east window of Gloucester Cathedral (300-307).

In 1823, O'Connor went to study in London in the stained glass studio of Thomas Willement. From 1835 he practised heraldic painting, stained glass production, and allied crafts in Dublin, coming back to England again in 1842, where he worked first in Bristol and then, from 1845 onwards, in London. He may have worked briefly with William Warrington, who had also studied under Willement (see Cheshire 46), and certainly produced windows for some of the top architects of the time, for example collaborating on the glass for St Saviour's, Leeds, with Pugin, as well as on some for All Saints, Margaret Street, with William Butterfield.

Detail ofthe Hall window at St Peter's, Leeds

He was well thought of, and still is. Nikolaus Pevsner, for example, writing of the stained glass in the West Riding, says that "there is much to be studied" there, "starting with Pugin's large windows at St Saviour Leeds, made by O'Connor c.1845. They have none yet of the Victorian dimness and fussiness of small detail" (61). O'Connor exhibited his stained glass designs at the Royal Academy in 1846 and 1849, and at the Great Exhibition too ("O'Connor, Michael"). But he had problems with his eyesight, and seems to have retired later in that decade, because only Arthur appears as exhibitor from 1859 (see Cheshire 47). The later works are somewhat different in style — fussier, as Pevsner might say, like the decorative lower panel of the window at St Peter's, Leeds, shown alongside, which dates from 1861.

The firm's address in London was the rather fine one of 4 Berners Street, just off Oxford Street (the Hardwick family had lived at no. 55). Poignantly, A. O'Connor, Esq. and Messrs O'Connor's assistants all contributed to a "Pugin Travelling Fund" for a studentship and medal in memory of Pugin after the architect's death (see Ferrey 472). — Jacqueline Banerjee.

Works of O'Connor & Sons

Sources

Cheshire, Jim. Stained Glass and the Victorian Gothic Revival. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.

Ferrey, Benjamin. Recollections of A. N. Welby Pugin, and His Father, Ausgustus Pugin; and Notices of Their Work. London: Edward Stanford, 1861. Internet Archive,from the collections of Oxford University.. Web. 26 June 2014.

Harrison, Martin. Victorian Stained Glass. London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1980.

"Michael and Arthur O'Connor." Stained Glass in Wales. Web. 26 June 2014.

"O'Connor, Michael." Dictionary of Irish Architects. Web. 26 June 2014.

Pevsner, Niklaus. Yorkshire: West Riding (Buildings of England series). 2nd ed., rev. Enid Radcliffe. London: Penguin, 1967.

Winston, Charles. Memoirs illustrative of the Art of Glass-Painting. London: John Murray, 1865. Internet Archive. Contributed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library. Web. 26 June 2014.


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Last modified 26 June 2014