Birmingham Cathedral Stained Glass

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A couple of weeks ago I had to go down to the centre of Birmingham with work. I’d bought an Advance ticket on the train and as I wasn’t sure how long my meeting and site visit would last, I’d booked on a train in the late afternoon. As it happened I was done by 1 o’clock so I had just over a couple of hours to kill. I could have gone to a café to do some work, but that wouldn’t be much fun and the work could wait until I was back at base, so I decided to have a bit of a mooch.

My first stop was Birmingham Cathedral as I wanted to have a look at the stained glass windows designed by Birmingham born pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by the firm of William Morris & Co.

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There are four windows in total, three at the east end of the building with the fourth immediately opposite at the west end. They’re quite magnificent works of Pre-Raphaelite art, and my photos, taken with my mobile phone, really can’t do them justice.

The left east window, the Nativity
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The central east window, the Ascension
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The right east window, the Crucifixion
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The west window, the Last Judgment
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The Ascension was installed in 1885 and the Nativity and the Crucifixion two years later. The Last Judgement was installed in 1897.

The Cathedral website tells us

They are considered characteristic of Burne-Jones’ later style – elongated bodies with small heads in relation to body length and designs which divide in two equal halves, horizontally. This technique separates heaven from earth in each of the windows.

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They demonstrate Burne-Jones’ immense skill and the fine craftsmanship of William Morris & Co. They are known for their vibrancy, the life-likeness of the figures, their ability to tell a story and their inspiring and dramatic qualities.

Well worth a visit to  take a look, particularly on a sunny day with the light streaming through the windows emphasising their vibrant colours..

Harry Clarke at the NGI

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The National Gallery of Ireland fully opened earlier this year, following renovations that have taken 4 years to complete. During this period most of the Gallery’s collection has been locked away in storage, so, although I didn’t have much time left before the gallery closed for the day after visiting the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Paintingand Käthe Kollwitz exhibitions and listening to the musicians in the Performance Art event, I found some time to wander round the permanent collection.

The Gallery has a small collection of Irish stained glass so I made my way to the room where its on display and was immediately drawn to two stunning pieces, one large and one small, by Harry Clarke, a leading exponent of the Celtic Revival and of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement at the beginning of the 20th century. I’m a big fan of his work which I’ve seen at the hUgh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the Honan Chapel in Cork

The larger of the two works is The Mother of Sorrows

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The  Gallery website tells us that this window

was made as a Memorial to Sister Superior of Saint Wilfrid, Principal of Dowanhill Training College, Glasgow. Following the success of Harry’s window, The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, for the convent chapel at Dowanhill in Glasgow in 1922, the superior, Sister Wilfrid, ordered a further war memorial window to commemorate the victims of the First World War. The Mother of Sorrows was commissioned by Sister Wilfrid in 1926, based on the pieta (Bowe, in Christie’s website, Lot 86, The Irish Sale, May 17th 2002).
Due to Sister Wilfrid’s sudden death the window was erected in Glasgow on 24 January 1927 and became her memorial.

It was purchased by the NGI in 2002

The smaller piece, The Song of the Mad Prince, based on a poem by Walter de la Mare is particularly beautiful.

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The song of the mad prince is an exquisite panel housed in a James Hicks cabinet. A small light at the back of the cabinet illuminates the panel. The panel is made up of two sheets of flashed glass; flashed blue glass is on top and flashed ruby glass is underneath.
The panel was originally made for Thomas Bodkin, Harry’s friend and patron.

Clarke’s work certainly is exquisite. Very much influenced by the Art Nouveau, Symbolist and Arts and Crafts movement with finely drawn figures, minutely detailed images and luminous colours. These photos, snapped with a mobile phone, really can’t do them justice; they need to be seen “in the flesh” to be really appreciated.

Burne-Jones window at St James Staveley

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While I was in Staveley the other week, just before I set out on my walk I popped into St James’ Church. I wanted to take a look at the East window, which was designed by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris & Co.

The window depicts the Crucifixion, and the Ascension, with angels grouped on a starry background.

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My photograph really does not do justice to this outstanding work of art.  Definitely “worth the diversion” as they would say in the Michelin Guides. (There’s a better photograph here)

The Church is listed, not because the building is special, but because of the window – which certainly is!

Listed for 3-light East window: glass by Morris and Co. after designs by Burne-Jones. Centre light shows Crucifixion over Ascension with angels, side lights three tiers each of single angels against a background of dark blue with stars. In memory of David Harrison d.1878. (Historic England)

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There are other windows made by Morris and co. and designed by Burne-Jones in Cumbria. I’ll have to seek them out.

Manchester Cathedral Stained Glass

It was a beautiful sunny day in Manchester last Saturday, so I decided to call into the Cathedral to have a look a the stained glass. With the sun pouring through the windows, they’d be shown off at their best’

All the Victorian stained glass was destroyed during the Manchester Blitz in 1940 so new glass has been installed starting in the 1960’s. The most recent is the Hope Window in the east wall and at the end of the north quire aisle, which was only installed at the end of last year (2016). The glass is contemporary in style, but with some traditional influences

This is my favourite, Fire Window by Margaret Traherne (1966) which is at the end of the chapel dedicated to the Manchester Regiment

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It was designed by the artist to commemorate the cathedral’s rebuilding after the blitz and represents the flames of the fires caused by the bombing. It’s a simple design but very effective, especially on a sunny day with the sunlight illuminating it – you could easily convince yourself that the street outside was ablaze. The window was destroyed by the IRA bomb that was exploded a few streets away in 1996, and it had to be reconstructed by the artist.

This is the Healing Window, (2004) by Linda Walton, which was installed to commemorate the restoration of the cathedral following the bombing.

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There are four large windows by Tony Hollaway

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The St. Denys Window (1976) by Tony Hollaway,

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The St Mary Window by Tony Hollaway (1980)

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The Creation Window (1991) by Tony Hollaway

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The Revelation Window (1995)  by Tony Hollaway

This is the most recent window – The Hope Window by Aaln Davis – that was installed in October last year and dedicated in December.

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The abstract design of the new window revolves around the themes of hope, innovation, growth and new life.

The window design includes the form of a tree (The Tree of Life) and seedpods, symbolising life and growth, and textile patterns relating to the city’s cotton industry. There is also a bee, the symbol of Manchester and an allusion to the beehives on the Cathedral roof. (Cathedral website)

The statue in front of the window is of Humphrey Chetham, founder of Chetham’s school and library.

‘The loveliest thing ever made by an Irishman’

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She came towards him dancing, moving the folds of the veil so that they unfolded slowly as she danced

One of the highlights of the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin is thje collection of modern stained glass displayed in a small, darkened room close to the entry of the Gallery. My favourite of these works is the the Art Nouveau / Arts and crafts style stained glass window by the Irish artist Harry Clarke, inspired by the poem The Eve of St Agnes  by John Keats, completed in 1924. Last year it was joined by an exquisite small panel, only a few inches across, purchased from the Fine Art Society in London. It was originally intended to be part of Clarke’s Geneva Window, described by Clarke’s friend and patron Thomas Bodkin as ‘the loveliest thing ever made by an Irishman’.

It’s a beautiful little work, typical of Clarke’s work – and like The Eve of St Agnes it’s incredibly detailed and beautifully composed with rich, deep and vibrant colour.

The panel depicts a scene from Liam O’Flaherty’s novel Mr Gilhooley, showing a partially nude dancer, Nelly, Gilhooley’s mistress, covered only by a transparent veil. It was one of a series of eight panels inspired by the literature of 20th Century Irish authors including Yeats, Shaw and O’Casey. The Hugh Lane’s pane  was Clarke’s original attempt to create the scene, but during its final firing, it developed a hairline crack. Clarke later remade this section. He had to replace it in the final work and in doing so changed the colour scheme from pink to blue.The Geneva Window was commissioned by the Irish government for the League of Nations building in Geneva in late 1920s but was deemed to be unsuitable by the then president of the executive council of the Irish Free State ,WT Cosgrave. In 1988 Clarke’s sons, David and Michael, sold it to a wealthy American art collector, Mitchell Wolfson, and today it’s displayed in his museum in Miami Beach, Florida.More detailed information and images of the Geneva Window can be found here and here.

The Honan Chapel

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The Honan Chapel stands just outside the official boundary of the UCC campus, but is effectively, part of the site. So I couldn’t help but notice it. I almost passed it by, but as I wasn’t in a particular hurry to get back to the train station I decided I might as well take a closer look. I’m glad I did. It was a little gem.

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It was only built in the early 20th Century,being consecrated on 5 November 1916. At first glance I could see it was a neo-Romanesque building, this doorway being very typical of the style

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but a closer look revealed Celtic features, such as these capitals

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The chapel is, in fact, a product of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement and is Hiberno-Romanesque, reflecting the style of early Christian churches in Ireland. It’s a product of the Celtic Twilight of Irish artists influenced by Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and the Celtic traditions of their native land.

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Inside there is a magnificent mosaic floor depicting the “River of Life”, (the colours haven’t come out on my photos, unfortunately)

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All the “furniture and fittings” were beautifully crafted and full of detail

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But I was particularly taken by the superb stained glass. There are nineteen windows in the Honan Chapel. Eight of the windows were designed by An Túr Gloine (The Tower of Glass), the stained glass studio of the Irish artist Sarah Purser. The other eleven were designed by Harry Clarke, the artist responsible for the Eve of St Agnes window that’s displayed in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin  The Honan Chapel was his first major commission.

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Clarke’s work is exquisite. Very much influenced by the Art Nouveau, Symbolist and Arts and Crafts movement with finely drawn figures, minutely detailed images and luminous colours. Thee photos really can’t do them justice;they need to be seen “in the flesh” to be really appreciated.

The Eve of St Agnes – Artistry in glass

During my short stay in Dublin I visited the Hugh Lane Gallery in Parnell Square. Originally called The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, it houses an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art.

One of the exhibits that really took my eye was the stained glass window by the Irish artist Harry Clarke inspired by the poem The Eve of St Agnes  by John Keats. It was completed in 1924 and it’s style and design is very much influenced by Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement.It was created using double-layered glass, repeatedly acid-etched, with minute detail scratched into the paint layers using a needle.

The image above really does not do this marvellous work of art justice – it really needs to be seen “in the flesh”. It’s incredibly detailed and beautifully composed and the colours are deep, rich and vibrant. It’s a really amazing work.