Sunday, May 29, 2011

Page 16: The Romance of Stained Glass

Lawrence Saint died in 1961. His reminiscences remain in his autobiography entitled, “The Romance of Stained Glass” which he self-published in 1959. At the end of the story he writes, “I gave to the Metropolitan Museum of Art two station wagon loads full of all kinds of stained glass materials: sheets of red & roundels, all of my glass formulas, about 1300 of them, and all of the glass paint formulas. This was reaccessioned later, with my approval, to the Corning Museum of Glass.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Page 15: Saint's Masterpiece - The North Transept Rose

Saint considered his masterpiece to be the North transept rose window at the National Cathedral which he created in 1932. Saint continued on at the National Cathedral until 1936 when the project ran out of funds at which point, suffering burnout Saint retired from stained glass altogether. The Cathedral decided to dismantle the "Division of Stained Glass" and gave title of the glass house, which had been built on his property to Saint in severance. The height of his life’s work was the creation of the windows for the National Cathedral.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Page 14: Saint's Hot Shop

I had been under the assumption that Saint worked in Washington during the cathedral project. I was shocked to discover that his home, studio and hot shop depicted in the photographs from the National Cathedral archives were actually located less than 1/2 mile away from Bryn Athyn Cathedral and that the buildings were still in existence! 

The letterhead from Lawrence Saint’s studio read: “Washington National Cathedral, Department of Stained Glass, Huntington Valley, PA”. All the glass for Saint’s windows at the National Cathedral had been made within walking distance of the Bryn Athyn Glassworks. I made one final connection – David Smith, the Swedish glass blower from Bryn Athyn lived in a house that backed up to Lawrence Saint’s own property. Is it possible that the success of Saint’s glass was due in part to conversations which occurred between two Swedish glass blowers (David Smith and Gus Erikson) over the back fence?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Page 13: Archives of the National Cathedral

Following his trail led me to the archives of the National Cathedral where I was able to find some rare photographs of Lawrence Saint working within his studio. His glass racks appear lining one wall. With funding from the National Cathedral, Lawrence Saint built a hot shop behind his studio and employed a Swedish glassblower named Gus Erikson to produce sheet glass. All of his colors were made in the roundel method with the exception of the striated red which was made in the muff method because, as he put it, “the striated roundels looked like Fourth of July pinwheels”. 

Saint had a staff of craftsmen working for him including painters and glazers. He was meticulous in his study of medieval glass. 

He even sent some medieval samples he had obtained to a lab for chemical analysis. After receiving the commission for the National Cathedral he returned to Europe to study the glass of Leon Cathedral in Spain because it was on the same latitude as Washington, DC. He wanted to compare the Leon color palette to the glass he had created. One story recounts that he got into trouble crossing the Spanish border when samples of his own glass were mistaken for medieval originals. The authorities detained him as a smuggler but he was able to show by letters that he was working for the National Cathedral and that he had made the glass in question in his own studio in America.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Page 12: Lawrence Saint at the National Cathedral

Lawrence Saint left the Bryn Athyn project in 1928 and secured a position at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. He worked there until 1936 and was the first head of the stained glass program. In applying for the position he listed among the other skills he could bring to the Washington Cathedral project -- “the ability to make sheet glass in the medieval style.” Undoubtedly, his superiors were aware of his intimate involvement at Bryn Athyn Cathedral. 

His series of windows on the Miracles of Christ in the National Cathedral are created in the gothic style and feature striated red glass in the backgrounds.