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GLASS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 111 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GLASS, STAINED Wailes). Better things begin with the windows at Westminster inspired by A. C. Pugin, who exercised considerable influence over his contemporaries. John Powell (Hardman & Co.) was an able artist content to walk, even after that master's death, reverently in his footsteps. Charles Winston, whose Hints on Glass Painting was the first real contribution towards the understanding of Gothic glass, and who, by the aid of the Powells (of Whitefriars) succeeded in getting something very like the texture and colour of old glass, was more learned in ancient ways of workmanship than appreciative of the art resulting from them. (He is responsible for the Munich glass in Glasgow cathedral.) So it was that, except for here and there a window entrusted by exception to W. Dyce, E. Poynter, D. G. Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown or E. Burne-Jones, glass, from the beginning of its recovery, fell into the hands of men with a strong bias towards archaeology. The architects foremost in the Gothic revival (W. Butterfield, Sir G. Scott, G. E. Street, &c.) were all inclined that way; and, as they had the placing of commissions for windows, they controlled the policy of glass painters. Designers were constrained to work in the pedantically archaeological manner prescribed by architectural fashion. Unwillingly as it may have been, they made mock-medieval windows, the interest in which died with the popular illusion about a Gothic revival. But they knew their trade; and when an artist like John Clayton (master of a whole school of later glass painters) took a window in hand (St Augustine's, Kilburn; Truro cathedral; King's College Chapel, Cambridge) the result was a work of art from which, tradework as it may in a sense be, we may gather what such men might have done had they been left free to follow their own artistic impulse. It is necessary to refer to this because it is generally supposed that whatever is best in recent glass is due to the romantic movement. The charms of Burne-Jones's design and of William Morris's colour, place the windows done by them among the triumphs of modern decorative art; but Morris was neither foremost in the reaction, nor quite such a master of the material he was working in as he showed himself in less exacting crafts. Other artists to be mentioned in connexion with glass design are: Clement Heaton, Bayne, N. H. J. Westlake and Henry Holiday, not to speak of a younger generation of able men. Foreign work shows, as compared with English, a less just appreciation of glass, though the foremost draughtsmen of their day were enlisted for its design. In Germany, King Louis of Bavaria employed P. von Cornelius and W. von Kaulbach (Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne, Glasgow); in France the Bourbons employed J. A. D. Ingres, F. V. E. Delacroix, Vernet and J. H. Flandrin (Dreux); and the execution of their designs was entrusted to the most expert painters to be procured at Munich and Sevres; but all to little effect. They either used potmetal glass of poor quality, or relied upon enamel—with the result that their colour lacks the qualities of glass. Where it is not heavy with paint it is thin and crude. In Belgium happier results were obtained. In the chapel of the Holy Sacrament at Brussels there is one window by J. B. Capronnier not unworthy of the fine series by B. van Orley which it supplements. At the best, however, foreign artists failed to appreciate the quality of glass; they put better draughtsmanship into their windows than English designers of the mid-Victorian era, and painted them better; but they missed the glory of translucent colour. Modern facilities of manufacture make possible many things which were hitherto out of the question. Enamel colours are richer; their range is extended; and it may be possible, with the improved kilns and greater chemical knowledge we possess, to make them hold permanently fast. It was years ago demonstrated at Sevres how a picture may be painted in colours upon a sheet of plate-glass measuring 4 ft. by 2 ft. We are now no doubt in a position to produce windows painted on much larger sheets. But the results achieved, technically wonderful as they are, hardly warrant the waste of time and labour upon work so costly, so fragile, so lacking in the qualities of a picture on the one hand and of glass on the other. In America, John la Farge, finding European material not French treatment of glass in the 16th century is not entirely due to a preference on the one part for colour and on the other for light and shade, but is partly owing to the circumstance that, whilst in France design remained in the hands of craftsmen, whose trade was glass painting, in the Netherlands it was entrusted by the emperor to his court painter, who concerned himself as little as possible with a technique of which he knew nothing. If in France we come also upon the names of well-known artists, they seem, like Jean Cousin, to have been closely connected with glass painting: they designed so like glass painters that they might have begun their artistic career in the workshop. The attribution of fine windows to famous artists should not be too readily accepted; for, though it is a foible of modern times to father whatever is noteworthy upon some great name, the masterpieces of medieval art are due to unknown craftsmen. In Italy, where glass painting was not much practised, and it seems to have been the custom either to import glass painters as they were wanted or to get work done abroad, it may well be that designs were supplied by artists more or less distinguished. Ghiberti and Donatello may have had a hand in the cartoons for the windows of the Duomo at Florence; but it is not to any sculptor that we can give the entire credit of design so absolutely in the spirit of colour decoration. The employment of artists not connected with glass design would go far to explain the great difference of Italian glass from that of other countries. The 14th-century work at Assisi is more correctly described as " Trecento than as Gothic, and the " Quattrocento " windows at Florence are as different as could be from Perpendicular work. One compares them instinctively with Italian paintings, not with glass elsewhere. And so with the 15th-century Italian glass. The superb 16th-century windows of William of Marseilles at Arezzo, in which painting is carried to the furthest point possible short of sacrificing the pure quality of glass, are more according to contemporary French technique. Both French and Italian influence may be traced in Spanish glass (Avila, Barcelona, Burgos, Granada, Leon, Seville, Toledo). Some of it is said to have been executed in France. If so it must have been done to Spanish order. The coarse effectiveness of the design, the strength of the colour, the general robustness of the art, are characteristically Spanish; and nowhere this side of the Pyrenees do we find detail on a scale so enormous. We have passed by, in following the progressive course of craftsmanship, some forms of design, peculiar to no one period but very characteristic of glass. The " quarry window," barely referred to, its diamond-shaped or oblong panes painted, richly bordered, relieved by bosses of coloured ornament often heraldic, is of constant occurrence. Entire windows, too, were from first to last given up to heraldry. The " Jesse window " occurs in every style. According to the fashion of the time the " Stem of Jesse " burst out into conventional foliage, vine branches or arbitrary scrollwork. It appealed to the designer by the scope it gave for freedom of design. He found vent, again, for fantastic imagination in the representation of the "Last Judgment," to which the west window was commonly devoted. And there are other schemes in which he delighted; but this is not the place to dwell upon them. The glass of the 17th century does not count for much. Some of the best in England is the work of the Dutch van Linge family (Wadham and Balliol Colleges, Oxford). What glass painting came to in the 18th century is nowhere better to be seen than in the great west window of the ante-chapel at New College, Oxford. That is all Sir Joshua Reynolds and the best china painter of his day could do between them. The very. idea of employing a china painter shows how entirely the art of the glass painter-had died out. It re-awoke in England with the Gothic revival of the 16th century; and the Gothic revival determined the direction modern glass should take. Early Victorian doings are interesting only as marking the steps of recovery (cf. the work of T.Willement in the choir of the Temple church; of Ward and Nixon, lately removed from the south transept of Westminster Abbey; of dense enough, produced potmetal more heavily charged with colour. This was wilfully streaked, mottled and quasi-accidentally varied; some of it was opalescent; much of it was more like agate or onyx than jewels. Other forms of American enterprise were : the making of into flakes; the ruckling it; the shaping it in a molten state, or the pulling it out of shape. It takes an artist of some reserve to make judicious use of glass like this. La Farge and L. C. Tiffany have turned it to beautiful account; but even they have put it to purposes more pictorial than it can properly fulfil. The design it calls for is a severely abstract form of ornament verging upon restrained from self-expression. Moreover, the recognition of the artistic position of craftsmen in general makes it possible for a man to devote himself to glass without sinking to the rank of a mechanic; and artists begin to realize the scope glass offers glass in lumps, to be chipped them. What they lack as yet is experience in their craft, and Examples of Important Historical Stained Glass. There are remains of the earliest known glass: in France—at Le Mans, Chartres, Chalons-sur-Marne, Angers and Poitiers cathedrals, the abbey church of St Denis and at St Remi, Reims: in England—at York minster (fragments): in Germany—at Augsburg and Strassburg cathedrals: in Austria—in the cloisters of Heiligen Kreuz. The following is a classified list of some of the most characteristic and important windows, omitting for the most part isolated examples, and giving by preference the names of churches where there is a fair amount of glass remaining; the country in which at each period the art throve best is put first.
End of Article: GLASS
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