Magazine article Anglican Journal

The Little-Known 'Greatest Stained Glass Artist of Our Time'

Magazine article Anglican Journal

The Little-Known 'Greatest Stained Glass Artist of Our Time'

Article excerpt

IN NOVEMBER 1919, a magnificent memorial window was unveiled in the east wall of the Church of St. Bartholomew (Anglican) in Ottawa. Commissioned by the Duke of Connaught--governor general of Canada from 1911 to 1916--to commemorate the 10 officers on his Canadian staff who had been killed in the First World War, it created a sensation when it was exhibited in London before being shipped to Canada. "Nowhere in modern glass," said American stained glass artist and writer Charles J. Connick, "is there a more striking example of a courageous adventure in the medium."

The adventurer was a relatively unknown 32-year-old glass artist from Northern Ireland, Wilhelmina Geddes, and the window--her only work to be found in Canada--is now widely regarded as her masterpiece.

Shy, chronically ill and lacking in confidence, Geddes might have seemed an unlikely candidate for such a prestigious commission. That she was chosen was a testament to her abilities, and to the persistence and support of Sarah Purser, herself a well-known painter and visionary, who was determined to foster modern stained glass-making in Ireland. Purser founded a studio in Dublin (An Tur Gloine, or Tower of Glass) that was to become famous for the quality of its work, and recruited Geddes, then an impoverished graduate of the Belfast School of Art.

The St. Bart's window took Geddes four years to design and execute, with many delays because of requested changes and Geddes' health.

A dazzling triptych in reds, golds, greens and blues, the window depicts a slain soldier being welcomed in heaven by the Archangels Raphael and Gabriel. …

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