Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Lecture on Stained Glass
Author: Bell, R. Anning
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Lecture on Stained Glass" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

GLASS ***



  A LECTURE ON
  STAINED GLASS

  BY
  PROFESSOR R. ANNING BELL
  R.A., R.W.S.



Published at The Royal College of Art Students’ Common Room, South
Kensington, S.W.7; and printed by George W. Jones at The Sign of The
Dolphin in Gough Square, Fleet Street, London. Copyright. All Rights
Reserved.



A LECTURE ON STAINED GLASS, DELIVERED IN THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART
STUDENTS’ COMMON ROOM, BY PROFESSOR R. ANNING BELL, R.A., R.W.S., ON
TUESDAY, 31ST JANUARY, 1922.


My subject of Stained Glass is a very wide, vague, large sort of
subject, and of course it is quite impossible to talk about it in any
thorough way in the course of an evening. You want to write books
about it. I thought it would be interesting to you, perhaps, to talk
about the more recent variations and changes, the evolution in the use
of glass. The fact that this modification in Stained Glass is very
largely the work of artists trained in this College should interest you
particularly.

Stained Glass, commonly so-called--it is a misnomer, for it is really
coloured and painted glass--is one of the three great Christian
decorative arts: Mosaic, Stained Glass, Fresco. They are in sequence,
roughly speaking, but they overlap. First, Mosaic in the earlier
ten centuries. It began about the 4th century and went on to the
Renaissance, when its character changed. You then get Stained Glass,
overlapping it about the 12th century; and the third great Christian
art is Fresco Painting, which flourished from the 14th century onward,
following a long and slow development from a very early period.

These three seem to be the main arts through which the expression of
the Christian religious scheme, its story, and its emotion have been
conveyed--Sculpture has found expression in all religions. They have a
considerable sympathy in the fact that they all demand plain surfaces,
flat or curved, and are all closely associated with architecture. Each
of them also has been so important, so dominating, that it has affected
the architectural treatment of the buildings which it was designed to
adorn.

Coloured and painted glass is the outstanding decorative treatment of
the Gothic period--the age of the cathedrals. The earliest stained
glass which we know is, I believe, of the 10th or 11th century, and
there are but few examples existing now. The great period runs from
about 1200 to 1550 or so in its full vigour. That is the big cycle of
stained glass; it went on living after that, and is reviving, I am glad
to say, nowadays; but those centuries showed its highest and fullest
development. It was then that the conditions of life and architecture
allowed its completest opportunity of expression. After that it was
adapted--with a much simpler treatment, with far less colour, with more
painting on clear glass--to domestic decorative work, and you will see
a good deal of Continental work of a very pleasant and attractive type
of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The practical function of stained glass is comparable with that of
mosaic. Mosaic is an enrichment of the shadow. Buildings designed for
mosaic usually have quite small windows, low down in the big domes or
sparsely set in the side walls, and it is the mosaic enrichment of
shadow, vaguely lit by reflected light from these windows, which gives
it its highest beauty. The peculiar charm of mosaic depends largely
on the gold treatment of the background, which is infinitely more
attractive when seen on curved surfaces and lit from below.

Stained glass is a method of glorifying and modifying the light which
enters a building; it has a wide range, from a limpid clarity to
rich and even sombre depths. Its power of emotional suggestion is
considerable and this, doubtless, commended it to the mediaeval mystics.

The spiritual function of stained glass is, like that of mosaic, by a
noble beauty of treatment, to present elevated ethical and religious
ideas in a worthy way. It may do this by means of symbolism, or by
typifying virtues and moral qualities by individual figures of great
characters from mythology or from religious history. For symbolism
and these type-figures it is peculiarly suited. Further, its function
is to enhance and to deepen the mood of religious exaltation which
the architecture of the building has already suggested to the
worshipper. Stained glass is essentially a method of strengthening,
carrying further and enriching the mood in which the worshipper finds
himself when he enters those noble buildings, so full of the sense of
aspiration and exaltation, and of the mystery which lies behind the
outward show of things. That is just by way of showing you the sort of
attitude which, I believe, we should adopt towards stained glass. You
must realise that your work is more than making pleasant and agreeable
colour and striking a casual note of beauty. You have more than that to
carry out, and deeper feelings to express.

Now to come down to the material, to what is called stained glass. The
fact is it is merely coloured glass. It is glass melted and mixed up in
the pot with various coloured oxides, green, blue or red, whatever you
want. Then the blow-pipe is put in, and with a quantity of the sticky
mixture attached to it is then blown out into a large bulb, just as
ordinary window glass is, and cut off and flattened out on big tables
to cool. The beauty of the quality of stained glass is very largely
owing to the irregularity of the thickness of it, and you often get
subtle variations in the colour, streaks, blotches of colour and so on;
the thickness of the glass makes quite an appreciable difference in
the depth of the colour, as you can easily imagine. One selects from
the large sheet of glass the particular piece which contains a tone of
colour one wishes to use.

Another treatment of glass is very largely used. This is called “flash”
glass. It was found that if the glass were coloured right through with
vigorous blues, ruby reds, and greens, it became so deep that you did
not get enough light through it. So quite early they found out a method
by which a film of colour could be applied to a sheet of clear glass,
usually of a greenish tinge. You have the same thickness of glass as in
the other method, but the colour is in a thin stratum on the surface
of it. This “flash” glass has another advantage which we occasionally
make use of; you can work away the thin veneer of colour, leaving
only the dear glass, an obvious method for making patterns. It used
to be done by means of a wheel with which you ground away the surface
rather laboriously, now you stop out with Brunswick Black the parts
you do not want to eliminate and apply acid--it is the same method
as in etching--and when you get down to the clear glass you get rid
of the acid. Then you can paint in your brown paint or yellow stain,
and you get quite an attractive effect. You will often see it done in
rich robes and in crowns and things like that; it is quite useful and
workmanlike, but if it is used too much it becomes tricky and pretty.

Now for the practice of the craft. I am afraid this will be very
commonplace talk to those students who are working at stained glass,
but possibly some others will be interested. I particularly hope the
more advanced painter students may be interested, for it is to them
one rather looks to take to stained glass in the last years of their
education when they have become fairly competent in drawing and design,
that is the time when stained glass should become to them a very
attractive and fruitful means of expression. The modern practice is
extremely like the old practice. The craft has the great attraction to
my mind of being one of those crafts which have changed very little all
through the ages, and the workshop method of executing stained glass
now is very much what it was in the earliest days.

The tools are very much the same, too, except that for cutting the
glass nowadays we use the more convenient modern diamond. The old
method was simple but rather laborious. When you wanted to cut out a
piece of glass you got a rather stoutish iron wire which you made red
hot, and you drew the iron wire over the lines you wanted to break, and
then with another tool you just nipped it off all round. They did the
most extraordinarily elaborate things in those days with these. I think
they got towards the later period to be far too fond of showing off
their skill. They cut most preposterous, irregular and odd shapes to
show they could do them; it was a case of the skilful craftsman getting
a bit beyond himself.

After the glass cutting comes the painting. This is done in the same
way as it always was, and the leading too. There are several sizes
of leads, 1/2 in., 3/8 in., and 1/4 in., etc. It is just a piece of
narrow lead flanged in the middle to separate the adjacent pieces of
glass, and when the lead is fixed all round the pieces, cement is put
in to hold it together. You want to be a good plumber to do it very
well, as I think our students have found out. I think all who practise
the art should go through the workshop and learn to cut the glass and
to lead it up; it is not a very serious part of their training; it is
not necessary that they should become expert plumbers, but they should
learn how and why it is done. I should very much like to have an expert
plumber and an expert glazier to do that part of the work for the more
advanced students, so that they could get on more quickly with advanced
work. But I am afraid we shall not have that just yet, owing to the
need for economy all round.

Now getting further on, I take it the earlier people designed their
windows in a much more simple way than we do. They had no cartoons, I
think. I believe that they set the work out on the long wooden bench on
which the glass is laid to be leaded up and cut, and marked it out with
charcoal. Very often they had to use up bits of glass they had got, and
make the designs fit into these, as glass was very expensive. Again,
the early work is generally based on geometrical forms. A tall window
would be cut up into seven or eight diamonds, circles, quatrefoils,
or such like; with ornamental detail in between. That gives an
opportunity of using up very small pieces of glass. In those days
labour was not very valuable and glass was, and so they did not like
to waste any bits. Nowadays you cut a large sheet of glass, you get a
few bits out of it, and often that is about all you can use of it. They
had very few colours, and as you could not go very far wrong with a
limited palette, I really think very much of the beauty of the earliest
glass is because they could not help themselves. The earlier glass was
glaziers’ work, it was the men thinking of leading it up rather than of
the painter’s work, who made the design.

Then about 1300 somebody discovered that extraordinarily effective and
useful material, the yellow stain. It was found that a solution of
silver painted on the glass would give, according to its strength and
according to the firing, all sorts of shades of yellow. This led them
to escape from the coarse note in stained glass. Blues, reds and greens
are very good as a rule, but the neutral colours are rather poor, the
purples are not very good, and yellow is inclined to be coarse. The
yellow stain was of great assistance, and they could get nearly all
the yellows they wanted; it was very much more manageable because they
could shade it off.

The next thing is the paint, which is just a sort of brown monochrome.
It is a colour which has an affinity with glass, which, when fired,
fuses into the glass and becomes part of it. There are what are called
enamel colours, that is to say they are enamels painted on and fired
over the glass in the same way that the brown paint is fired on, and
they give, of course, variations of colour necessary in heraldry, etc.
This method is rather to be distrusted, because it can only be used
safely in small quantities; it is inclined to fly and disappear in
large spaces.

We have now dealt with the main materials: the glass, the leads, the
stain and the paint, and I think I have said all that is necessary
about the materials themselves. Once you know your materials, the
production of a stained glass window is essentially and properly a
piece of communal work. I do not a bit sympathise with those people
who say they do the whole thing themselves. Why should a man who is
capable of designing a thing well be a plumber and glazier; he ought
not to. It is like the people who insist on building their own houses,
the sort of people who wear sandals and live on nuts. Besides it is
so unsocial; it is so much better that it should be a communal art. I
like to think that the man who cuts the glass and the rest have some
kind of interest in doing the work; they are not merely your slaves
to do a cut-and-dried job, merely arbitrarily. I like to talk it over
with the men, from whom, too, you often get quite useful suggestions.
My own training has been entirely that way. I learned stained glass
backwards, really. I began by designing windows, and then learned how
to work them--designing them all wrong, and talking to the fellows in
the shop and learning about it that way. I had the ordinary training of
a painter, I thought a stained glass window was the kind of thing you
just did with charcoals and “genius.” I see now quite constantly in a
workshop in Scotland my first stained glass efforts; they are a very
valuable lesson in modesty--they are quite absurd. They turned out well
enough because the fellows in the workshop knew their job; they did it,
and talked to me, and I had the sense to see they knew the work better
than I did, and we got the work out pretty well in the end. You people
here with a useful craft shop, with all the materials to hand, have a
tremendous advantage over us older people who just had to find out the
best way we could. It was years and years before I really got to do it
in a workmanlike way, and I am still finding out all sorts of faults.

First of all, of course, you get a commission; that is quite a
difficult thing to do. The subject is next settled; that also is often
a very difficult thing, particularly if you have a Committee. Then
you make a design and, having got the design approved, you get the
templates, and set the thing out on the cartoon. When you have to ask
for templates, see that you get them made of cardboard or of paper,
otherwise the local builder will send you an enormous construction of
wood, which is very unmanageable, costs a lot in travel, and is very
awkward for setting out. A piece of old wallpaper or brown paper will
do well for templates, carefully marked as to their relative places in
the window and particularly with the “inside” well marked as well as
cut out to the shapes. Often all you need is the head of the window
above the “springing” and figures showing what length it is below. You
cannot trust the masonry if it is not modern, and not always then; old
work is almost always irregular. There is a decorative window over
there (pointing), those lights are extremely irregular, and we had to
have a template of every bit of it; one light is about 1-1/2 in. wider
at the bottom than the top. They sent the templates carefully measured
up, and I set up the cartoons. It seemed all right, the window was made
and sent down and put up. When I got to see it in the church, I found
the windows were not horizontal at the bottom, the middle one was 1 in.
lower than this one, and the other one 1 in. lower than that again. The
result was these saddle bars, which are quite straight on the cartoons,
made three steps in the window. It is really rather disconcerting to
see the saddle bars running across slightly out of the true, it catches
the eye of a person used to making stained glass. I was very angry
with myself when I saw it on the opening day. You must be quite sure
that the shapes of the window are accurately produced, and you must
not trust your template of the top of one light to do for the others;
you want one for each. Even in recent work, however good the mason is,
there is quite often some slight variation.

Having got your templates, you now get them traced out on the cartoon,
which has to be done very carefully. Having set out the shape of the
window, you place the saddle bars across. The function of these saddle
bars is to hold the window up; without them the weight of glass in a
long window would bulge it out or drag it down. These bars are usually
about 1 in. wide, and the window is tied to them by means of copper
wires. An advantage of that is that if the window has to be taken out,
you only have to take out a piece at a time, just untwist the wires and
take each piece between the bars away separately. If you forget to mark
in the saddle bars on the cartoon, you may find when you come later to
settle their positions that they cross a face or other important part
of your design.

After you have got your cartoon set out, you start making your drawing,
and there are a number of cartoons here which show the varying
treatments different people use. The usual method is to draw them in
charcoal, and leave the colour to be taken from the small sketch. You
will see some very admirable sketches here by Martin Travers, one of
our old students. One can fairly trust to these to do the main colour
of the window. They are so close to the design in detail, that the
sketch is quite enough to make the glass from without colouring the
cartoon. I find myself rather less decided than that, and I am so
inclined to vary the design on the cartoons, that I have to colour them
just to make sure I am not losing the proportion or the distribution
of colour. If you are able to stick close to your sketch, you do not
need to colour the cartoon; if you are a person who varies, it is best
to colour the cartoon. There is also this to be said. One is very much
inclined, in doing elaborate charcoal drawings, to put in a great deal
too much detail and not to trust the glass enough; glass itself is
such a charming material that often the less detail on it in paint, the
better the effect.

When you have done your cartoon, it goes into the workshop, and is
laid down on a large bench, a stretch of tracing linen is placed over
it, and the middle line of each of the leads is traced. That line is
drawn so as to be as thick as the central flange in the lead. It is to
separate the two pieces of glass. You have now a map of the window.
Then all these shapes are numbered, and they are either cut out or
another tracing is made and is cut out and numbered again; the coloured
glass, which has already been chosen, is then laid over the paper
shapes of the separate pieces, and is cut out and also numbered, all
your pieces of glass are numbered and correspond to the numbers on the
tracing, so that their places may be readily found.

Before this you must have chosen the glass. If you are not the head
of a workshop, the most practical method is to go through and choose
with the foreman, who is often a very intelligent man. You choose the
main colours, you choose your two or three principal reds and two or
three principal blues and greens, and as they naturally carry through
the window, they keep the key right. Then you have to leave it to him
to choose the minor tints, the various variations in these shades of
“white.” There are a great many variations; you want an expert man to
choose those, you cannot do it yourself unless you own the workshop and
spend your life in it, because you do not know the stock. If you do own
the shop and spend your life at it, you find in a short time you have
got the business to get, you have got to keep your men employed, pay
your rent and wages; you spend most of your time in getting the work,
and the rest of your time doing the cartoons; and you have not got time
to look into the details of choosing the glass. It is not a practical
thing. Nobody who is essentially a stained glass man can do the whole
work himself, he has got to trust to other men; it is necessarily a
piece of communal work. The men work better if they have an interest in
it. Of course, though, you supervise the whole and alter any piece you
don’t like.

You have the glass chosen, the main tints, and they are then cut out,
and the shapes all being settled by means of the bits of paper I spoke
of, then they are fixed as you see here on a large sheet of plain
glass, fixed in the positions they are in on the cartoon; all the
separate pieces of glass for as large a portion as it is convenient to
paint at one time. Then you put it up against the light, and you paint
them from your cartoon, or they are painted by a competent man. That
is the beginning of the final stage. After they are painted once, they
are fired, and generally painted a second time, and sometimes they are
done a third time, with a sort of turpentine paint--they call it “tar.”
Each time it is fired the paint fades a little: the second painting
is largely needed to strengthen what is fired away in the first. One
is supposed to know what is to happen in the firing, but sometimes
unfortunate accidents happen.

After it is all painted the leads are put round these pieces, they are
cemented together, and that is the window finished for fixing.

Now a word about the modern tendencies in stained glass, and I am
very glad to say this is illustrated very largely by old students of
this school. I speak of modern tendencies as compared with those of
thirty or forty years ago, modern works since the Gothic revival--such
as the work done by artists of standing and distinction, the works of
Rossetti, Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, William Morris, and others--I think
the principal alteration has been very much in the use of leading.
That sounds, perhaps, unimportant and vague to those who have not been
working in stained glass, but it is really of the first importance.
The leading, theoretically, and almost always in mediaeval people,
was simply done to separate one figure or one colour from another, to
separate the head from the clothing, and the armour from the surcoat,
and such things as that. You had the lead lines drawn as far as
possible simply round the form, you would have lead lines round every
separate colour, but, if you could help it, you tried not to have any
lead lines across. You tried to arrange it so that you could have a
plain piece of colour with lead lines round it, and no interfering bars
across. Modern work has broken away from that very much, I think myself
to the advantage of the art of stained glass. The use of lead lines
not only to emphasise form but for structural reasons and to emphasise
important parts of the design, to give quality to the colour, and
also to give opportunities of variation of the colour, is one modern
tendency.

It was largely suggested to modern men by the fact that old glass as
you see it now is so much broken up by cross lines, because it broke
accidentally and has been mended. They were so clever that they often
cut round dangerous shapes which did not last, and had to be leaded
across to hold the window together. These proved to be so attractive
in enriching the window that the suggestion was taken up, and it has
now become a vicious mannerism, in fact I have heard of a man who had
a stained glass window deliberately broken up, and just leaded up the
cracks. But you may do it when you feel that it helps your design, if
it emphasises interesting points, or enriches the colour.

Another tendency of modern glass is the tendency to the use of
silhouette against plain silvery glass. It is going back to the later
middle ages, when they were fond of this treatment. The silhouette
treatment has various qualities, various advantages; it emphasises and,
I think, makes necessary a rather symbolic treatment of stained glass,
and as I think the symbolic is the more distinguished, the more noble
use of the material, this treatment has a strong appeal.

Another tendency in the work of contemporary designers which I regret
is the absence of bordering. They are so inclined to treat figures and
quarries right up to the mullion or wall without any border. It is
severe and simple, but you lose the advantage in colour very often.
This is a point for those of you who are attempting to treat modern
subjects in stained glass, because modern subjects are very difficult.
We have not the advantage our luckier ancestors had of seeing people
all round us wearing rich and strong colours, colours akin to those of
glass, and also fine textures; black broadcloth is not like the black
velvet worn by gentlemen in the old days. You must find your colours
somewhere else if you want to use modern figures, and you must manage
somehow by means of borders or the decorative crosspieces which divide
the window. So I would suggest that you should pay as much attention
to the use of borders as you possibly can. You can have a very good,
rather silvery picture without much colouring, such as modern subjects
would probably demand, and yet get your colour by having a rather rich
and wide border. Modern figures look best in quite small areas usually.

Another tendency, not very important, but very helpful to colour, is
that in the last thirty years the light glass has been used much whiter
and clearer. When I began to do stained glass the correct thing was a
kind of dull green, rather a sage green, a “greenery, yallery” kind of
thing. I think it was because the dullish green stuff was thought to
give a less new or modern effect. As you probably know, very little
glass is white, it nearly all has some tint, but contrasting strong
colour knocks it out, and makes you think it is clear. There are a few
sorts of glass of a really clear, limpid quality, but you cannot use
them too much; they are far too dazzling.

Another tendency is, I think, to use more primary colours; strong
colours are used more and not so many secondary shades: that is because
the strong colours, the real colours, red and blue and green, the sober
and the sombre, the deep and rich colours, are the most effective
contrast with this very silvery white. When you get into half tones
of browns and greys, you get rather a dull effect. The work done by
good men thirty or forty years ago is often of that character. If you
go to Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford, there are several windows by
Burne-Jones and Morris, quite good ones, but they look rather washed
out, except the earliest one which, on the contrary, is very vivid.
It is partly because the glass itself is not as deep and strong as it
might be, and partly because there is not enough lead, the pieces are
rather too big, and partly, perhaps, because there is some very good
old glass to be seen near by.

Another tendency which is a good one is the increased reliance upon
painting in line, the increasing avoidance of that flat, mat affair,
which has been the workshop tradition up till recently. Like many
modern workshop traditions it is simply one of incompetence and mental
idleness, it means they did not know how to do it better, and you could
also employ cheaper labour, because you do not want the same type of
educated man to do it.

There is now a school of young artists who are doing very good work,
and I hope we shall soon have more--both men and women. Like pottery
painting, it must not be timid, you have got to do it with a decided,
firm, steady stroke, it does not do to be feeble, any more than it does
on pottery; it is the vigorous, quick line you want: vigour is even
more important than academic accuracy. But of course a good man can do
it correctly.

There is also considerably more restraint in the amount of pattern on
costume, borders, etc., and therefore more reliance on the quality of
the glass itself. Those elaborate and ingenious patterns so general
in, at any rate, the greater number of late nineteenth-century windows
are found to be tedious and worrying; their object was, as a rule,
to enrich a rather poor quality of glass. Nevertheless well-designed
pattern work is very useful when judiciously used.

Now a few words to students who propose to take up the study of stained
glass. First of all get thoroughly used to the material and practise
painting it, leaving the design of less important detail until the
glass is being handled. The constant danger to the designer is the
cartoon. I find that new students are far too apt to make elaborate
cartoons before they are sufficiently familiar with the glass itself,
and to cover them with details of ornament of a character which will
not really help the result.

Stained glass is severe and at the same time rich. As with every
technique the subject must be inseparable from the treatment. The
_artist’s_ subject that is. This is not the same as that which the
spectator regards as the “subject,” and it is not the “art for art’s
sake” subject. It is not beauty divorced from meaning, except in the
simpler forms of lead lighting or patterns in colour. These are often
useful, often wanted, but they do not demand the highest imaginative
qualities which our art can express. I have little sympathy with the
desire to reduce our arts to the abstract. It is too austere and too
puritanical an ideal. They are the better, I think, where the work is
conceived in a moment of fervent exaltation. It may be religious, it
may come from poetry, from music, from the external beauty of Nature;
it may come as the wind comes, one knows not whence, but it sets a
flame, as it were, to the imaginative mind, and in that flame the
_artistic_ subject is born.

Now without a real grasp of the craft this moment is wasted. Nothing
is welded. The beautiful possibility cannot come to the birth, it is
without form, it has no bodily shape, and is but one of those pitiful
unrealised and unrealisable glimpses through the veil which form the
tragedy of the incomplete artist.

Only when you are so familiar and so easy with your means of expression
that their limitations, their so-called restraints, are to you a help
and a happy freedom and as natural to you as the organs of your body,
can you hope to realise the gift which is offered to you and transform
it into your own artistic expression.

This does not imply that “to carry out the carrying out” will
necessarily be easy, any more than it is always easy to make your body
obey your wishes; but it will be natural, and the transformation will
be unconscious, just as a school-boy is transformed into a cricketer
quite unconsciously, but yet cricket is not easy.

To get down to facts, what all this means is that you must work at your
technique until you never dream of wanting stained glass to do the
things which stained glass won’t do.

Now stained glass is at its best, as I have said, a severe and yet rich
form of decoration. It can, in its lighter uses, express a sort of
quaintness or whimsicality, it can tell the gothic fairy tale--goblins,
elves, gnomes, it can express a somewhat grimmish form of fantasy.
I remember seeing a capital piece of work--quite small--giving the
characters of that strange old Cornish song “Widdicombe Fair,” a rather
macabre story--with the Ghost of the Old Grey Mare, Peter Hawke and
the rest of the rout. But it cannot easily be gay and it can never be
frivolous. How depressing is restaurant stained glass! I am speaking of
stained glass, _i.e._, coloured glass. White glass, painted, can convey
a certain sedate cheerfulness, as one may see in 16th and 17th century
domestic work; and when enamelled, as in the Swiss work, it even has
a sort of sprightliness, of a Teutonic rather than of a Latin type.
Excursions along these paths might give very interesting results to
those whose temperaments lead them to such adventures. They have been
by no means explored--and some of our students are gifted that way.

We modern people stand at a disadvantage compared to our ancestors in
that the surroundings of our lives are not so immediately suggestive of
treatment in glass as those which they enjoyed. Think of the luck of
that man in Richard II’s time who had to put “le Dispencers” round the
choir at Tewkesbury. Not, of course, a great imaginative subject, but a
very pleasant, interesting, and easy job--gorgeous knights in surcoats
with their arms emblazoned. And then think of being asked to do a
modern Cabinet Council! Nevertheless there are suggestions to be got
from modern life, and I am glad to see that our students are aware of
it--children, women--men are more difficult. Texture as well as colour
is a difficulty, it cannot quite be ignored.

But the great, the profound difficulty is the absence of symbolic
figures, of characters which have been “canonised” in our times by
popular acclaim, and symbolism must be widely and readily recognised
to be of value. Think of all the great moral qualities--and these are
naturally the motives of much stained glass. Is it leadership in war?
It is not General Haig, nor even Foch, your mind flies to--but Joshua
or David, or Godfrey de Bouillon. Is it statesmanship? It is not Lloyd
George or Gladstone, or even William Pitt--but rather Moses or Gregory,
Hildebrand or Anselm. Is it patriotism and self sacrifice? Well, there
are many graves “which are for ever England,” and yet--it is Joan of
Arc we think of. Probably, Florence Nightingale and General Gordon are
the only characters which have been “canonised” in recent times. And
even in the case of Gordon does the present generation feel about him
as we older ones did, who watched his tragedy and cherish his memory?
If it comes to other than moral virtues, to figures typifying factors
in the structure of Society--Law, Kingship, Commerce, Labour? Law would
scarcely be a Lord Chancellor (or Justinian), but again Moses, with the
Tablets given him from The Mount. Kingship would hardly be a modern
sovereign--but Barbarossa as in the Spanish Chapel, or Charlemagne, or
our own King Arthur.

Commerce is, I confess, a difficulty. I think possibly the gracious
figure of Venice would be best. Certainly not the Port of London
Authority or Sir Alfred Mond or Lord Leverhulme! For Labour, not
that gorilla-like figure, with a huge jaw and no back to its
head, brandishing a pick or a hammer, so favoured by the advanced
politicians, and some sculptors, of to-day. But rather--the shepherds
following the angel to the lowly manger.

It follows then, that those who wish to excel in stained glass
designing should have a wide culture and real imagination, a sound
knowledge of the necessary technique, and a thorough delight in the
craft. I feel sure, too, that they would be all the better for study
and design in other methods of artistic expression in order to avoid
that staleness and repetition which too often comes to those who
practice one form of art alone.

  ROBERT ANNING BELL.



Transcriber’s Note


Text in _italics_ is indicated by underscores.

No changes were made to the text as printed.

While original copyright information has been retained, this book is in
the public domain in the country of publication.



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Lecture on Stained Glass" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.




Home