Glass-painting in Britain c.1760-c.1840 : a revolution in taste
This thesis discusses the development of British glass painting laying particular emphasis on the progress of the Gothic Revival in architecture. These years (the most neglected and perhaps the most crucial, in the history of the medium) witnessed a fundamental change in the sources, iconography and techniques or painted glass. An introduction chapter provides a survey of the Post-Reformation history of stained glass up to 1760 - an overview essential both to an understanding of the Anglican Church's hostility to religious imagery and of the late 18th - century revival of interest in the medium. For much of the period in question, the history of glass-painting is closely bound up with the history of canvas-painting: designs for 'picture windows' were provided by celebrated artists and the pictorial models used conformed to the canons of taste expounded by the President of the Royal Academy himself. This thesis charts the gradual breakdown of these academic and painterly traditions under the impact of antiquarianism and developments in medievalist scholarship. The emergence of a new 'gothick' style in Georgian glass-painting was a direct reflection of current perceptions of medieval art. In response to the new taste of archaic subject matter, glass-painters began to turn to medieval works of art, which they used as models with increasing versatility and sophistication. By 1840, glass-painters such as Thomas Willement had brought this eclectic process to its logical conclusion and were producing windows modelled closely on authentic examples of medieval stained glass. The growth of interest in ancient glass was also to have important consequences for its restoration. The activities of private collectors of ancient glass are also closely bound up with the critical ideology of the Gothic Revival, a number of neo-classical architects shared a common professional interest in the medium and experimented with its architectural application. There was, by the early 19th century, a well established precedent for the use of modern glass in neo-classical buildings and a clear perception of a subject and style appropriate to such locations. This thesis also examines the wider role of the medium played in the interpretation of non-gothic decorative styles and the increasing versatility shown by the glass-painter in adapting his work to the changing requirements of architectural setting.