Make time during ArtWeek’s opening weekend to witness some art history at two impressive architectural sites. Stained glass windows have long been an ingrained part of the Catholic Church’s aesthetic, but there are some examples of these pieces that stand apart from all others.
Louis Comfort Tiffany’s name has become synonymous with the vibrancy and refined detail in his trademark stained glass works. The son of Tiffany & Co founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, this craftsman began his career as a painter before pursuing interior design. His work with home design was met with widespread acclaim and he managed to attract several high profile customers while he worked out of his New York City studio. Soon, he began to experiment with glasswork and devoted more and more of his time to the practice. Though these early experiments were a precursor to his ecclesiastical focus, church windows were just part of his natural evolution as an artist.
Some of Tiffany’s best known products, found and emulated far and wide, are his ornate lampshades. Never to be mistaken for subtle, the bright colors and organic shapes used in these designs make them instantly recognizable, even to those unfamiliar with Tiffany’s work. The design of Tiffany lamps and even their cheaper imitations tends to outshine the function of the lamp itself, turning the bulb into a simple backlight for intricately layered sheets of colored glass. To see the same concept applied in the solemn interior of a church is at once contradictory and breathtaking. These pieces are showy and elaborate, yet reverent to their subjects. Tiffany’s style never comes across as tacky, instead portraying glass saints and angels as the larger-than-life, luminescent figures they are meant to resemble. They must be seen in person to truly be appreciated.
Luckily, two churches in Eastern Massachusetts house collections of such windows, and are inviting visitors to special events during ArtWeek. First, visit Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Lynn for a morning of art and music. Saint Stephen’s boasts 41 of the oldest Tiffany windows to ever be created for religious purposes. In addition to educational programming, the church plans to celebrate their 175th anniversary by filling the parish with song. Stay after the tours for an organ concert performed by Bruce Beecroft. There’s plenty of history to absorb over the course of the day.
On Sunday, the Tiffany Windows Education Center at Arlington Street Church will be hosting family activities throughout the afternoon. There is plenty to see here: the church is fitted with 16 large illustrated windows. Arlington Street Church’s pieces were created by Frederick Wilson, an Englishman who did extensive work for Tiffany. Representatives from the Education Center will go in depth on the story behind the glass. Be sure to bring the kids to this one- the day includes a scavenger hunt, a coloring activity, and the chance to create a mini window model from wax. Be sure to give both of these events a try and enjoy the intimate access to design of such high quality. You’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for an artist whose work has become so quietly iconic over the years.
Written by Mateo Caballero. Read more blog posts here.