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modern stained glass

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stained glass - development and techniques, also rose windows

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Index
from medieval glass to dalle de verre, or slab glass
great contemporary stained glass artists
reims eight-hundred anniversary glass
marc chagall
henri matisse
gabriel loire
modern glass at clermont-ferrand
recommended reading

from medieval glass to dalle de verre, or slab glass

In medieval times, the manufacture of stained glass was an esoteric craft involving glass-blowing. The quality of the glass varied greatly, in consistency, thickness and so on. The surface varied, bubbles of air were trapped in the glass, the colour varied, and since those days, acids in the air and rain, and from pollution, pitted the outside surfaces over the centuries. This can be seen in the whitening of the surfaces.

You may think that all this variation is a problem, but far from it. These variations are a good part of what gives old windows such character, sparkle and glow. In fact, restorations over the past century have often done more harm then good, as some of the life has been removed from the windows. However, as knowledge grows, restorers are now often doing a better job.

related pages:

Eventually, the old handcrafts involved in glass manufacture were replaced by metal molding and glass flotation. The product became consistent, most of the bubbles were removed, the surface became smooth and the colour evenly distributed. This ended up in a product lifeless from the point of view of the finished window. This product became known, in a monumental misnomer, as ‘cathedral glass’!

So the glass makers have had to learn all over again how to produce a more appropriate material and result. As modern science catches up with medieval craftsmen, the palette of the stained glass artists is now becoming good enough even to incite the envy of a 12th century monk. For more detail, go to so now for a bit on glass.

Added to the range of glass available, there is now a great modern innovation dalle de verre, or slab glass. This material has opened up the possibility of embedding the inch-thick glass in concrete or resin. As glass expands at approximately the same rate as the concrete, these windows can be made to be structural, as well as damned impressive.

To add still further to the lively colour and light transmission qualities of this glass, the craftsman deliberately chips the inside surface of the glass, with a hammer, as can be seen in the photo just below.

Stained glass at the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, La Cotinière on the île d’Oleron
The stained glass shown here is at the church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, La Cotinière on the Île d’Oleron

great contemporary stained glass artists

Unfortunately, great stained glass artists are few and far between. The best I know is Gabriel Loire, who has unfortunately died recently at a great age. The best example of his work in England is at St Mary’s College Chapel, Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, using dalle de verre. His son Jacques, and I believe his grandchildren, are now involved in the business, which has a shop next door to Chartres cathedral. However, his descendants are not yet in the same class as Gabriel.

There is a prime example, in a single window, of Chagall’s work at Chichester cathedral. He has also glazed a complete church of twelve windows at Tudeley, Kent. There are also several windows in Reims cathedral, and in Metz cathedral, but these latter I have not seen. It tends to be more interesting to see a building where the modern stained glass artist has been responsible for glazing all the windows. Thus, in Britain, you may have a better impression of Chagall at Tudeley, despite the small nature of the project. But Chagall’s definitive tour de force is the twelve magnificent windows at the chapel of the Hadassa Medical Centre, a little way out of Jerusalem. In America, the best example is the smaller Union Church at Pocantico Hills, about thirty miles north of New York City.

Matisse has created an impressive chapel at Vence in Provence, designing practically everything within it, including the stained glass windows. (Its visiting hours are limited, so check carefully before visiting.)

Painton Cowen has produced a very useful directory of stained glass in Britain .

 

reims eight-hundred year anniversary glass

After the depredations of the centuries, I wonder whether the controllers of Reims have decided to reduce this great cathedral to a rather sad museum of modern stained glass artists. Metz and Nevers also appear to be suffering this fate. Another sad age that values its own vanities above the sensitive restoration of these great old buildings.

Three of the six windows by Imi Knoebel for Reims cathedral.
Three of the six windows by Imi Knoebel for Reims cathedral.

For the occasion of the eight hundredth anniversary of the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Reims, the German artist Imi Knoebel has been commissioned to design six stained glass windows to replace the existing neutral glass. These windows, with an area of 128 m², are being placed in the absidial Chapel of the Sacred Heart, to either side of the monumental stained glass by Marc Chagall, installed in 1974. The Knoebel windows will be opened to the public on Saturday, 25th June, 2011 at 11am.

Knoebel believes his design “returns to the original chromatic language of the cathedral, producing a symbiosis between old and new. The color gives quality, weight and balance, with colours as well as luminance”. Knoebel’s windows look to me a rather poor reference to Fritz Glarner.

Relational painting no.89 by Fritz Glarner [1961]

The six stained glass windows were made in close collaboration between the artist and a group of glassmakers, the workshop of Simon Marq at Reims, and the workshop of Duchemin, Paris. The windows are financed to 1.3 million € by the Champagne-Ardennes Region and the Ministry of culture, together with substantial donations from the GDF SUEZ Group, Louis Roederer Champagnes, the local Caisse d’Epargne Bank, as well as some anonymous donors.

 

marc chagall (1887 - 1985)

There is a prime example, in a single window, of Chagall’s work at Chichester cathedral. He has also glazed a complete church of twelve windows at Tudeley, Kent. There are also several windows in Metz cathedral, but these I have not seen. It tends to be more interesting to see a building where the modern stained glass artist has been responsible for glazing all the windows. Thus, in Britain, you may have a better impression of Chagall at Tudeley, despite the small nature of the project. But Chagall’s definitive tour de force is the twelve magnificent windows at the chapel of the Hadassa Medical Centre, a little way out of Jerusalem. In America, the best example is the smaller Union Church at Pocantico Hills, about thirty miles north of New York City.

Windows by Marc Chagall at Reims cathedral. Image: travelpod.com Zebulun by Marc Chagall  [1961]
Windows by Marc Chagall at Reims cathedral. Image: travelpod.com One the twelve tribes of Israel windows, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Centre Synagogue, just outside Jerusalem. These very impressive windows are beautifully presented in a simple square building, three on each side. Dimensions: 3.38 x 2.51 metres.

 

henri matisse (1869-1954)

Window from the Chapelle du Rosairie   Chasubles (sleeveless vestment worn by the officiating priest at mass)
Window from the Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence
image credit:
Monica Arellano-Ongpin
    Chasubles (sleeveless vestment worn by the officiating priest at mass)

Aftter the end of World War Two, Matisse became interested in stained glass. He made sketches for the stained-glass panel representing St. Dominique in the church at Assy (1948).

He also designed the interior decoration for the Dominican chapel of Notre-Dame du Rosaire at Vence (1948-51) including the stained glass. Matisse, in fact, designed the whole chapel in every detail, including priest’s vestments, furniture and probably even the drawing pins!

The chapel is open intermittently, and is hidden in a side street. It is well worth a visit, but you need to plan.

Google stellite map of the Chapelle de Rosaire, Vence
The chapel has the pretty blue and white roof.

Matisse made sketches for the Rose stained-glass panel for the Uniate Church in New York (1954).

cowan

Henri Matisse: The Vence Chapel: The Archive of a Creation by M.A. Couturier

Skira, 1999, hbk, 492 pages

ISBN-10: 8881184028
ISBN-13: 978-8881184026

amazon.com / amazon.co.uk

This book is out of print and only available secondhand. It is expensive, costing about $145, or £170, or 200€.

Another, cheaper book about the chapel (224 pages) is mooted for later this year. Details and pre-ordering available here.

La Chapelle de Rosaire, Vence - information

466, avenue Henri Matisse à Vence.
Tel. 04.93.58.03.26.

Nominal opening times (February, 2013)
Monday, Wednesday, Saturday: 14h – 17h30
Tuesday, Thursday: 10h - 11h30 & 14h – 17h30
Sunday mass: 10h
Annual closing from mid-November to mid-December
Closed on national holidays.
It is important to check the actual opening times before you visit.
Note also that the roads to and around the chapel are quite tricky to negotiate.

 

gabriel loire (1904 - 1996)

Crowning with thorns

Coronation of the Virgin

Crucifixion

Three of the fifteen windows by Gabriel Loire in the Chapel of St Mary's College,
Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, England, windows constructed in 1963-4
image credit: mtgf

Gabriel Loire trained and worked with stained glassmakers at Chartres, learning medieval stained glass techniques. In 1930, he experimented with a new technique separating very small pieces by strips of lead, thus forming designs that was previously painted. This led Loire to renew the art of stained glass, including experimenting with stained glass tiles.


 

 

 


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Symphonic Sculpture (1975) by Gabriel Loire at the Open-Air Museum, Hakone, Japan Exterior of Symphonic Sculpture

Symphonic Sculpture (1975) by Gabriel Loire at the Open-Air Museum, Hakone, Japan

Exterior of Symphonic Sculpture
 

Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas, 1976
Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas, 1976
image credit:
Gabriel Loire

 

Gabriel Loire at work in his studio
Gabriel Loire at work in his studio

 

modern glass at clermont-ferrand

There is some interesting modern glass at Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral, as well as some of the best 13th-century glass in France.

In the chapels at the west end of the cathedral are the highly imaginative modern windows of the Apocalypse and Genesis by Alain Makaraviez and Edwige Walmé, completed in 1981.

The choice of scenes had been made by, and was supervised by the cathedral's canon. The Apocalypse window demanded a year of work by hand, being made of 5,000 pieces of glass, after a sketch (cartoon) had been accepted.

the great prostitute, Babylon, Clermont-Ferrand cathedral
"The four horsemen press under a black sun and a moon of blood left, the great prostitute,
Babylon, holding the cup of his vices, rides the scarlet beast with seven heads.
"

The large Prostitute of Babylon was initially drawn with a much lower decolleté (neck line) but the prim supervising canon said,
"There's no way you're going to make us a Brigitte Bardot".

See also examples of more stereotyped glass at Cambrai cathedral.

 

recommended reading

cowan

A guide to stained glass in Britain by Painton Cowen,

Michael Joseph Ltd (June 10, 1985)
ISBN-10: 0718125673
ISBN-13: 978-0718125677

amazon.com / amazon.co.uk

marker at abelard.org

return to the index

 
marker cathedrals – introduction: reading stained glass
marker gothic cathedral and church construction
marker cathedrals, an illustrated glossary
marker cathedrals, an illustrated glossary marker Chartres - wonder of the world
marker history of ugly stained glass: Auch, Bazas, Dreux
marker Auch cathedral choir and stalls
marker Rouen and Monet
marker at France pages Dax and church iconography marker photographs, Dax
marker Bazas - iconography and architectural styles
marker Poitiers, neglected masterpiece marker photographs, Poitiers / photos 2
marker Angers, heart of the Angevin Empire marker photographs, Angers
marker Laon, the midst of the gothic transition, with added oxen marker photographs, Laon
marker Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon
marker Notre Dame of Lausanne
marker Senlis - how a typical cathedral changes through the ages
marker Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges - the cathedral of the Pyrenees
marker Le Mans and Bourges cathedrals - medieval space technology
marker Lausanne rose window - photo-analysis
marker cathedrals in Lorraine - the Three Bishoprics
marker cathedral giants - Amiens and Beauvais
marker Clermont-Ferrand and Agde - from volcanoes to cathedrals

marker Germans in France - Arras cathedral
marker Germans in France - Reims cathedral
marker Germans in France - St. Quentin cathedral
marker Germans in France - Noyon cathedral
marker Germans in France - Cambrai cathedral
marker Germans in France - Soissons cathedral

marker cathedral plans, and facts
marker using metal in gothic cathedral construction illustrated
marker cathedral labyrinths and mazes in France illustrated
marker cathedrals and cloisters of France by Elise Whitlock Rose

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