Not a great deal is known about Alfred Hassam, a painter and designer who was active in the middle of the nineteenth century, particularly in the 1860s. He was born in London near St. Martins in the Field on April 18, 1842. He was apparently one of at least three children. His father Charles Hassam (1816-1874) was a vellum binder in a printing office. His mother Maria Tyley (1816-1869) was the granddaughter of the sculptor James Tyley of Bristol. Nothing is known of Hassam’s artistic training. He may have trained at the Central School of Art (later the Royal College of Art) in South Kensington, or one of the other art and design schools supervised by the South Kensington based Department of Science and Art. He may also have studied under the stained-glass designer John R. Clayton. Alfred began designing stained glass as early as 1858. He is probably now best known as one of the principal, and most innovative, stained-glass designers for the firm of Heaton, Butler and Bayne. He and Robert Turnill Bayne had joined Heaton Butler in around 1860 and Bayne became a partner in 1862. Hassam may have acted as Bayne’s assistant. Hassam was largely responsible for the extraordinary colour of their early windows. In 1862 Hassam won the first prize for colour in stained glass awarded by the Ecclesiologist Society. In 1865 he won a prize for his stained glass design for the north staircase of the South Kensington Museum awarded by the Science and Art Department of the Council on Education.

As an artist Hassam was principally a watercolour painter, but he also painted in oils. Between 1865-68, while living in London, he exhibited sixteen works at various venues including the Society of British Artists, the Dudley Gallery, and the Royal Academy. Hassam was an artist of advanced tastes who seems to have been on the periphery of the avant-garde in the 1860s. It is not known whether he had any personal contact with any of the artists within the Pre-Raphaelite circle, with the exception of Henry Holiday, whom he would have known by 1865 through their joint connection with the stained-glass firm of Heaton, Butler and Bayne. His promising career was cut short by his premature death at age 27 from consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) on June 2, 1869 at Hastings where he had gone for the sake of his health. He was buried on June 5, 1869 at Hastings Cemetery in a public grave with no headstone. — Dennis T. Lanigan



Waters, William and Carew-Cox, Alastair. Angels & Icons. Pre-Raphaelite Stained Glass 1850-1870, Worchester: Seraphim Press Ltd., 2012, 200-218, fig. 300. [Review]

Last modified 14 October 2021