Good Life

Art & antiques: Stained glass dates back thousands of years

Mesopotamian potters discovered the method for making multicolored opaque glass beads around 2,750 B.C. Circa 1,100 A.D., a window of colored glass was documented in Germany. Colored glass windows were used in churches, monasteries and other places of worship.

Artisans, like worshipping pilgrims of the day who made pilgrimages to holy sites, traveled from church to church to work on stained-glass window projects during the Medieval period. Most stained-glass windows were made of colored glass with images of saints painted onto the glass itself. The colorful images for each glass panel were kiln fired. This firing made the colored images a permanent part of the glass.

The Arts & Crafts movement of the mid-1800s blossomed in England and America. A strong interest in handmade objects and quality workmanship was embraced by William Morris (1834-96) and his company, Morris & Company. A popular artisan of the movement was Sir Edward Burne-Jones who produced stained-glass windows for the Victorian collectors of the day.

Burne-Jones’ counterpart in America was an accomplished designer named John LaFarge (1835-10), who worked along with W. J. McPherson. LaFarge made opalescent glass pieces and created stained-glass windows in the late 1870s in opalescent glass. This process made it unnecessary to paint the glass and fire it in a kiln.

Other stained glass masters included the artisans Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was commissioned to produced stained-glass windows for public institutions and private clients, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who integrated stained-glass windows into his architectural works.

LaFarge’s stained glass windows were highly detailed and highly decorative. In 1885, Tiffany established the Tiffany Glass Company. Tiffany windows were made in many different types of glass-making techniques. They featured landscapes and figures, and were produced for buildings such as churches and private homes.

Tiffany first began experimenting with glass art in 1873. He produced stained glass windows for many different clients using various techniques: opalescent, etched and enameled glass. Other famous artists also worked in stained glass, including Marc Chagall and others.

Today, stained-glass windows continue to attract collectors and enthusiasts, as the art form has evolved. Contemporary artists, such as Clifford Ross, work in colorful stained-glass window art forms with the aid of advanced digital imagery technology.