Exhibition: The Splendour of Light – Christopher Webb and the Windows of St Lawrence Jewry

An exhibition on Christopher Webb (1886–1966), a well-known and popular stained-glass artist of the mid-20th century, will be held at St Lawrence Jewry, Guildhall Yard, London, 4–28 October 2016 .

The windows at St Lawrence Jewry made up the largest of his schemes and in many respects represented a culmination of his prolific career in stained-glass design and manufacture. 2016 is the 50th anniversary of Webb’s death and a good time for a re-assessment of his achievements. While his work has retained its popularity in many of the church communities whose buildings house his windows, it has often been damned with faint praise by architects and other critics for its apparent conservatism and lack of adventurousness.

Fig.1. The Splendour of Light – Christopher Webb and the Windows of St Lawrence Jewry.

Fig. 1. The Splendour of Light – Christopher Webb and the Windows of St Lawrence Jewry.

This exhibition puts Webb’s commission as part of the refitting of St Lawrence Jewry after its destruction in the blitz of 1940 in the context of his development as an artist over the previous three decades. It also uses copies of original sketches and full-size cartoons from the collection of his son John Webb to show how designs for individual windows changed, sometimes very significantly, during the commissioning and approval process. In the almost complete absence of written records for this project, the sketches and cartoons provide a fascinating and unusual insight into Webb’s ideas and the ways in which they were modified by input from other interested parties. For example, in the original scheme one window was to have been a portrait of the Queen. In spite of the attractive sketch prepared by Webb, this proposal was abandoned. Fortunately, the sketch survives, and a copy is included in the exhibition.

The sketches and cartoons have not been seen outside the Webb family since Christopher Webb’s death in 1966. Many of the sketches, while showing signs of their practical use in making the windows, are miniature works of art in their own right, and the cartoons, fragile as many of them are now, demonstrate Webb’s skill in draughtsmanship. The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue and concludes with pointers to other Webb windows in and around the London area.

A launch event for the exhibition will take place at SLJ at 5.30pm on Monday 3 October 2016 with two or three brief presentations. This is open to all – no need to book.

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