Presenting Pugin, by Robin Fleet, The Pugin Society, 44 pages, numerous colour illustrations, £3.00. Available (plus p&p) from the Pugin Society.
The architect Augustus Welby Pugin (1812–1852) was a key figure in the revival of stained glass in the nineteenth century. Although he died tragically young, his passion for Gothic buildings and medieval art saw him champion traditional craft methods and work alongside Thomas Willament (1786–1871), William Wailes (1808–1881) and William Warrington (1796–1869) before beginning a hugely influential partnership with John Hardman (1811–1867) and his nephew John Hardman Powell (1827–1895). The glass he designed captured the energy and colour of medieval windows and was installed not only in the churches he designed himself, but also in others, such as Sherborne Abbey, where he had many admirers.
This short booklet by Robin Fleet is a delightful introduction to Pugin’s life and work. The opening chapter describes his upbringing, early interests, professional successes, marriages, children, homes and death. Chapter Two summarizes his most important architectural writing, and the third escorts the reader through Pugin’s architecture and designs, which included stained glass, wallpaper and furniture. The last chapter focuses on Pugin’s final years in Ramsgate (Kent), where he built a family home, ‘The Grange’, and an adjacent church.
In recent years, members of the Pugin Society have successfully campaigned for the preservation and renovation of these important buildings. The Landmark Trust is now responsible for Pugin’s home and has converted his former studio, ‘the Cartoon Room’, where full-size drawings or cartoons of his stained-glass designs were prepared, into an attractive visitor information centre. The catholic church of St Augustine has also been put on sounder footings thanks to the support of the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund, which also made a contribution to the publication of this book.
Stained Glass: Radiant Art, by Virginia Chieffo Raguin, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2013, softback, 22.8 x 15.2 x 1cm, 112 pages, numerous colour illustrations, £16.99. Available from Amazon.
This book is an attractive introduction to the Getty Museum’s collection of medieval and Renaissance stained glass and is lavishly illustrated throughout [Fig. 1]. Its author is a leading member of the American Corpus Vitrearum and author of many books and articles. With Halen Zakin she co-authored Stained Glass Before 1700 in Midwest Collections: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Corpus Vitrearum USA, VIII (London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2002.
The Getty Museum began acquiring stained glass in 2003, primarily from the London art dealer Sam Fogg. Examples include panels from Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The museum now owns one of the most important collections in the United States of American, and thanks to a parallel holding of medieval manuscripts and Renaissance prints and drawings, visitors to the museum can compare the output of glass-painters with the work of artists specializing in other media.
Rather than ushering visitors around the galleries and listing and describing every exhibit, Professor Raguin has taken a different approach, treating the collection not as an end in itself, but as a context for a broader introduction to the art of stained glass. The book begins with a brief chapter on glass making, cutting, painting, and leading. The next chapter explores the purpose and impact of stained glass in different architectural settings: cathedrals, monasteries, parish churches, and private houses, in each instance drawing upon examples in the collection to illustrate her points [Figs 2 and 3].
Chapter three discusses artists and patrons and makes good use of the museum’s wider collections to illustrate how artists working in other media influenced the designs of glass painters and promoted changes in artistic style. Examples include a pen and brown ink design for stained glass made by the talented German artist, Hans Sebald Beham (1500–1550), who worked as an engraver, etcher and painter, and a panel in the museum depicting a Premonstratensian canon of Berkheim, dated to c.1520 and attributed to a design of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543). The chapter also highlights the role of donors in commissioning windows and having themselves or their arms depicted in the final schemes. Because of the museum’s excellent collection of Swiss armorial panels, this chapter also discusses the way that individuals and civic associations often installed such panels in public buildings or gave them to friends. The chapter concludes with an interesting section about the influence of print-making on sixteenth-century Netherlandish roundels.
The penultimate chapter discusses the collecting of stained glass, a subject of particular interest in the United States, where nearly every panel of pre-1600 European glass has been acquired on the international art market. For this reader a comprehensive catalogue of the museum’s holdings would have been appreciated at this juncture of the book, especially as not all of its glass is illustrated. The final chapter focuses on the challenges of restoration and display, in particular changing attitudes to these subjects.