Discover photographer Alastair Carew-Cox's exquisite Pre-Raphaelite stained glass images, which feature in his acclaimed Angels & Icons and are available to license from the Bridgeman archive:
Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and Henry George Alexander Holiday (1839-1927) were the foremost designers of stained glass in the second half of the 19th century. Their vision inspired a generation. The two artists were acquainted and had a mutual admiration of one another’s work. Burne-Jones was initially, as a student like William Morris, intent on entering the Church and an active social conscience lay behind his endeavours. He saw his position in society as something of a prophet, a missionary whose obligation was to use the gift he had been given responsibly. Like Rossetti he considered art to be, if not a substitute for religion, certainly its equivalent.
The photographs in the Bridgeman archive stem from the acclaimed Angels & Icons and the shortly to be published volume, Damozels & Deities, by William Waters & Alastair Carew-Cox, (Seraphim Press Ltd), which traces the development of stained glass, viewed as an art form, from 1870 to the death of Burne-Jones in 1898.
Over this period the public’s interest in the creative arts enabled the Aesthetic Movement to flourish. Ecclesiastical windows grew more beautiful and secular in appearance, so much so that domestic glass was in many cases indistinguishable from that found in churches. Not all of the Church hierarchy were impressed. The Bishop of Manchester preaching in Walsall in October 1878 pleaded earnestly for:
"simplicity of creed and life, and for promoting God’s cause rather by dealing with the mass of suffering, sin, crime, ignorance, and vice, than by building churches, erecting stained glass windows, or conducting elaborate harvest festivals."
There was a burgeoning of small firms as artists responded to the increased demand. Morris & Co. and Burne-Jones led the way and in parallel James Powell & Sons and Henry Holiday created an equally important body of work. The work of lesser known artists including Selwyn Image, J.W. Brown, Carl Almquist, Edward H. Jewitt and Thomas Boddington, whose output was at times equal to their more famous contemporaries, have also been photographed and are included in the Bridgeman archive. The work of the earlier Pre-Raphaelite stained glass manufacturers is also included. Firms such as Heaton, Butler & Bayne, Clayton & Bell, and Lavers, Barraud & Westlake where the beauty and subtlety of painting is evident from such artists as Alfred Hassam and Robert Bayne. The stained glass of Daniel Cottier is also featured, a Scotsman who had contact with Morris, Burne-Jones and Rossetti and became an important figure in disseminating the style throughout America and Australia.
The Aesthetic Movement, as represented in stained glass, existed at its height for a very short time from c.1870 to c.1890. In reflection of the concern to introduce beauty into everyday life, the designers followed Burne-Jones in his pursuit of elegance and grace. This relative uniformity of style and intent unified the group. Afterwards Burne-Jones and Holiday, in their maturity, continued to develop with an individualism which was a logical and crowning achievement. The Bridgeman archive of Pre-Raphaelite stained glass covers the length and breadth of Britain and follows the medium from its inception in the 1850s through to the Arts & Crafts style of 1917 / 18 and First World War Memorial Windows. It is the intention of the photographer Alastair Carew-Cox to make this important oeuvre better known, thus creating a desire to visit and protect these often neglected works of art.
It has been an honour and a privilege to photograph the work of these stained glass masters. Tracking down keys, often works of art in themselves, walking through villages carrying a blue feather duster on a seven foot extendable pole, and finally standing in front of often forgotten masterpieces can be an emotional experience.