John La Farge is known
as the inventor of the opalescent stained glass window and is the
father of the American mural movement in the
late nineteenth century. He was regarded as the
premier American muralist of his time and an
eloquent art critic. La Farge studied painting in
France and with William Morris Hunt of Newport, Rhode Island.
Farge became fascinated with the suggestion of
highlights and shadows in irregularly made opalescent glass and how
the glass muted bright light and created
complimentary tones to adjacent colors. He was
intrigued by the potential to render realistic
subjects relying on the effects within the glass
rather than by painting on glass.
Farge's earliest opalescent glass experiments
were conducted at Francis Thill's glass house in Brooklyn; glass
discs made by James Baker, a Manhattan window
artist, also inspired La Farge. La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany
independently financed the experimental
production of opalescent window glass conducted
at Louis Heidt's glass
house, also in Brooklyn. Tiffany quickly began
the production of pressed glass tiles.
Farge and Tiffany's friendship came to a bitter
end over the rights to use opalescent glass in
windows, which La Farge patented in 1880. Tiffany
filed a similar patent in 1881.
glass experiments resulted in opalescent glass
with multiple colors mixed in the same sheet.
Under their direction, confetti glass; streamer;
ridged; drapery; and thick, faceted glass nuggets
and chunks were made at Heidt's shop. Several
glass houses also made great varieties of pressed
glass jewels. In 1887, Kokomo
Opalescent Glass Company began
production; in 1889, they won a gold medal at the
Paris World Exposition for their
multi-colored window glass.
Farge also experimented with molding opalescent
glass to depict distinct subjects. An excellent
example is the molded glass flowers in Peonies Blown in the Wind, made for
the Henry Marquand house in Newport, Rhode
Island. He also experimented with what he called
"cloisonne" glass, which consisted of
small bits of colored glass contained by wires
and fused in a kiln. The Old Philosopher for the Thomas Crane Memorial Library in Quincy, Massachusetts was the
first example of this rare technique.
of Tiffany's early windows exhibited the
evocative potential in the new glass. A
non-representational window for his apartment and
the Eggplant window for the George Kemp
residence in New York City used the
irregularities in the material to suggest organic
subjects, anticipating naturalistic approaches to
Art Nouveau design.
the early 1880s, there was a small group of
artists who worked with La Farge and Tiffany who
were also attracted to the medium of opalescent
glass windows. The most important of these early
artists were David Maitland Armstrong, Francis Augustus Lathrop, Mary
Tillinghast, Thomas Wright, John Calvin, Frank
Millet and Joseph Lauber. Armstrong, Tillinghast,
Wright and Calvin continued careers as full-time
realistic potential of the new materials to
depict figures within natural settings was
quickly realized by La Farge in his Infant Bacchus, done for
the Washington Thomas House in Beverly,
Massachusetts and by Armstrong in his Annunciation, created
for New York City Church of the
in her career, Tillinghast created Jacob's Dream in Grace Church in New York City. Her
window was a fantastic vision of angels ascending
a ladder within billowing clouds of multi-colored
Wright assisted La Farge in creating several
Symbolist Style works. Dawn at the Edge of
Night and Autumn are works of stunning
richness of color and detailed craftsmanship.
created an Aesthetic style tour-de-force in his
windows at St. Columbia's Chapel in Middletown, Rhode Island. These
windows are a joyful kaleidoscope of styles and
opalescent materials available in the mid-1880s.
depicted figures of lyrical Renaissance grace in
the Union Congregational Church in Montclair, New Jersey. Two
spectacular engineering accomplishments were the
stained glass dome in the Library of
Congress by Herman Schladermundt and the Appellate Court Building in
Manhattan, by Maitland Armstrong.
of skill and taste designed opalescent windows in
many areas of the country, including Donald
McDonald and Frederick Crowinshield in Boston and J. Horace Rudy of Philadelphia. The
oldest existing studio in the country, the J.
& R. Lamb Studio, created a
beautiful series of American historic scenes for
the Plymouth Church, Brooklyn.
largest studio from those times is still the best
known today: the Tiffany Glass Company, which
employed hundreds of people and produced
thousands of windows. The company relied on a
department of artists to design the windows.
Artists Edward Sperry, J.A. Holzerm Agnes
Northrop and Frederick Wilson were longtime
employees of the studio. Wilson was the most
prominent, designing strong, majestic figures
such as in the Ivanhoe window.
Wilson moved to Los Angeles in the
early 1920s and designed painted Gothic windows.
Northrop stayed with the firm for almost its
entire existence, specializing in richly detailed
landscape windows. Clara Driscoll designed many
of the most popular lampshades, including the Dragonfly.
Creek Bird Supply and see
our selection of Stained
Glass Suncatchers, Stained
Glass Mini Suncatchers & Stained
Glass Window Art