The first exhibition dedicated exclusively to the life and works of Shrewsbury stained-glass artist Margaret Agnes Rope (1882–1953) will run at Shrewsbury Museum from September 2016 to January 2017. Rope’s work can be seen in over forty churches across four continents. Her glass is usually classed as being of ‘later Arts & Crafts’ style [Fig. 1].
Following the example of Christopher Whall, and her own mentor Henry Payne (under whom she studied in Birmingham), Rope followed the Arts & Crafts ideal of being heavily involved with the making of the work. She is known to have kept a workshop at the famous Glass House studios in Fulham, where the co-owner Mary Lowndes encouraged women to strike out as independent makers. Her use of the recently developed ‘slab glass’ gave her work the distinctive jewelled look sought after by Arts & Crafts practitioners.
Despite her achievements, she has largely disappeared from art history. This cannot be attributed solely to critical reception of her work: she left very few records (only three photos of her are known to exist, and only one letter); in addition, at the age of forty, she entered an enclosed convent (though she continued to work from there for another twenty-five years). Although mention was made of Rope’s work in Peter Cormack’s Arts and Crafts Stained Glass, this exhibition, which has been put together largely by enthusiasts of Margaret’s glass on behalf of Shrewsbury Museum, will be the first real chance to assess her output. Undaunted by the apparent paucity of available artefacts, the museum has been able to source many objects, most of which will be being seen in public for the first time. A specially designed light-show will display projected photos of her church glass, and present-day Shrewsbury glass artist Nathalie Liege will lead workshops in the making of stained glass while the exhibition in on. It is expected that there will also be lectures and other complementary activities.
The Shrewsbury Museum has set up a special email address to deal with all matters relating to the exhibition ([email protected]), for anything from tourist information about Shrewsbury to receiving extra information about Margaret Rope.