Stained Glass - Art at the Glass Surface
Cambridge - Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th September 2017

Jonathan Cooke
<[email protected]>

article posted 17 May 2017

Jonathan Cooke ACR trained at the York Glaziers Trust and has been a freelance conservator and glass painter since 1987, during which time he has had the privilege of working on glass of all dates and the challenge of replicating damaged painted surfaces, sometimes on a large scale, including for all major 19th-century English workshops,. He has given classes in glass painting throughout the UK, as well as in Norway and the USA. His manual on glass painting Time and Temperature (Swansea, 2013), is a practical guide to a variety of techniques; a distillation of his working knowledge and experience, observation and study.

Scratching the surface: observations on techniques and characteristics of English commercial glass-painting of the late 19th Century
Jonathan Cooke ACR

By the third quarter of the nineteenth century a small number of large commercial firms dominated the growing English ecclesiastical market for church furnishings and stained glass by both volume and value. Large numbers of church windows by the London studios of Clayton & Bell, Lavers Barraud & Westlake, C E Kempe and Co., Burlison & Grylls, Heaton, Butler & Bayne, James Powell and Sons, Ward and Hughes, (later Curtis Ward & Hughes), and the provincial firms of William Wailes of Newcastle (later Wailes and Strang), and John Hardman of Birmingham survive and now begin to represent conservation challenges for the 21st century.

Their restoration provides opportunities for close study of the artistry and techniques employed by glass painters, allowing us to gain insights into their working methods and practices which in turn inform our restoration projects. Using modern materials, the conservator/glass painter is tasked with achieving sympathetic treatment for lost material, whether holed glass or fugitive paint, and a practical knowledge of how the glass was originally decorated is vital for understanding limitations and achieving satisfactory outcomes.

A number of 19th-century manuals such as those by Gessert and Fromberg, first published in in the 1840's, and were soon translated from German into English (published in a single volume in 1884). They provide some clues as to techniques, material and working practices of the period. However, published technical manuals intended for a general readership, at best give an incomplete picture and may be misleading, the more so for the 21st-century reader faced with baffling ingredients. Close working contact with the medium is therefore essential if we are to attempt to gain the understanding we need to conserve these windows and their artwork. In the course of his working life, the author has studied the characteristics of the major London studios, as well as several of the larger provincial firms, and experimented continuously to gain a better understanding of how the artistic effects which we now need to conserve and replicate were originally created. From the perspective of a modern practitioner and with reference to Whittock, Gessert, Fromberg, Bontemps,Hermann, Hancock and the later books by Whall and Suffling, this paper will examine the characteristic hallmarks of some of the large English 19th-century workshops, how they are differentiated, stylistically and with specific attention to glass painting techniques, exploring both how some of these effects were originally achieved and possible means of sympathetic repair.