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The Stained Glass Museum is the only museum dedicated to the art of stained glass in the UK. It offers a unique insight into the fascinating history of stained glass, an art-form that has been practised in Britain for over 1,400 years. The museum’s collection spans from the medieval to modern period, and includes over 1,000 stained glass panels from both religious and secular buildings, as well as a growing collection of preparatory designs, tools and materials. It is particularly renowned for its core collection of 19th and 20th century-stained glass by prominent artists and studios of the time.

Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Jasmine Allen, Director and Curator at The Stained Glass Museum, on 12th April 2023. You can watch a recording of the talk on Art UK's YouTube channel.

6 artworks
  • Stained glass was a prominent art form in Europe during the medieval period, especially in churches where windows were used to illustrate the tenets of the Christian faith and illuminate biblical figures and scenes.

    This brightly coloured 13th century panel once formed part of a large window containing a complete figure of an Old Testament King. The panel occupied a window high up in the clerestory of the eastern choir at Soissons Cathedral, in France. Begun in the late twelfth century and brought into use by 1212, the choir at Soissons was a key building in the evolution of the High Gothic architectural style and one of the very first cathedrals to include the giant figural stained glass windows so characteristic of these great churches.

    Bust of a King c.1210
    French School
    Stained glass
    H 68 x W 93 cm
    The Stained Glass Museum
    Bust of a King
    Image credit: The Stained Glass Museum

  • Biblical stories like the Annunciation – when Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her she was going to give birth to the Christ child - would have been immediately recognisable to a medieval audience. Devotion to the Virgin Mary was widespread across Europe in the Middle Ages and particularly in England.

    It is a fine example of fourteenth-century glass-painting, made c.1340. The ‘S’ pose of the figure of the Virgin is very elegant, and characteristic of the ‘Decorated’ International gothic style. The glass once decorated the Church of St John the Baptist in the Worcestershire hamlet of Hadzor and was restored by Hardman and Co. of Birmingham in 1866. It was removed in the late 20th century when the church was deconsecrated.

    The Annunciation to the Virgin c.1340
    unknown artist
    Stained glass
    H 208 x W 46 cm
    The Stained Glass Museum
    The Annunciation to the Virgin
    Image credit: The Stained Glass Museum

  • The art of stained glass experienced a revival in 19th century Europe in both religious and secular contexts. August: Threshing was one of 12 stained glass panels depicting Labours of the Month, forming part of the glazing scheme of the drawing room of Silsden House, Keighley, Yorkshire. This was the home of Charles Hastings, a Bradford Worsted Spinning Manufacturer, designed by architect Richard Norman Shaw.

    Although the glass was removed before Silsden was demolished in 1903, the rest of the series is untraced. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, better known for his Pre-Raphaelite paintings, designed this stained glass for the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (later Morris & Co.). The firm also used the designs for ceramic tiles.

    Labours of the Month – August, Threshing 1863
    Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) and Morris and Co. (active 1901–1958)
    Stained glass
    H 42 x W 28 cm
    The Stained Glass Museum
    Labours of the Month – August, Threshing
    Image credit: The Stained Glass Museum

  • In early 20th century Britain some of the more innovative stained glass artists were beginning to explore modern expressions in stained glass. Following the Second World War modern expressions in stained glass became much more common.

    Margaret Traherne was influenced by the work of French expressionist painter and stained glass designer Georges Rouault. Although this panel depicts a traditional religious subject, the Virgin and Child, it shows moves towards abstraction with strong and very expressive painting.

    Traherne was an important stained glass artist and this was one of her earliest stained glass works, made for Michelham Priory in Sussex. Much of her later works are more abstract and devoid of figures.

    Virgin and Child 1956
    Margaret Traherne (1919–2006)
    Stained glass
    H 135 x W 71 cm
    The Stained Glass Museum
    Virgin and Child
    © the copyright holder. Image credit: The Stained Glass Museum

  • The son of an Oldham coal miner, Brian Clarke (b.1953) is today one of the leading exponents of architectural stained glass in Britain.

    Inspired by a generation of post-War German artists such as Johannes Schreiter (b.1930), Clarke’s early work is often abstract. This work is an abstract composition, in two panels, made up of a regular geometric grid of squares of green glass punctuated by constructivist shapes and amorphic lead forms and a single red cross.

    Clarke has explored the possibilities of coloured glass and architecture on a vast scale for a variety of contexts including shopping centres, offices, airports and mosques, as well as churches and private homes. The Peel Cottage Window was made for a house of that name in London.

    The Peel Cottage Window 1982
    Brian Clarke (b.1953) and W. Derix GMBH and Co. (founded 1866)
    Stained glass
    H 190 x W 156 cm
    The Stained Glass Museum
    The Peel Cottage Window
    © Brian Clarke. All rights reserved, DACS 2024. Image credit: The Stained Glass Museum

  • Stained glass remains a relevant art form to address cultural questions and concerns today. One of The Stained Glass Museum’s recent acquisitions is Kehinde Wiley's Saint Adelaide, a portrait of a young black man in contemporary clothing and trainers, holding an orb and sceptre, with a halo.

    Wiley's composition is directly copied from a 19th century stained glass window depicting the Christian Saint Adelaide designed by French academic painter Ingres for the Chapel of St Ferdinand, Paris, made by the Royal manufactory at Sevres in 1843.

    By replacing this traditional religious saint with a portrait of an ordinary black man, ‘Mark Shavers’, the artist plays with ideas and representations of religion and power, gender and race.

    Saint Adelaide 2014
    Kehinde Wiley (b.1977) and SkLO Studio
    Stained glass in aluminium frame
    H 251 x W 116 cm
    The Stained Glass Museum
    Saint Adelaide
    © Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of Galerie Templon, Paris. Image credit: The Stained Glass Museum