I am a big fan of stained glass windows. It has influenced my work in many ways, from trying to emulate the brilliance and glow of the colors to the way in which I see and compose my work. I have been lucky enough to live in an area with access to the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany who is easily the best known and most stylish of stained glass makers. The Corning Museum of Glass has a number of his pieces, which are remarkable, as do several churches in the area.
But there is someone to rival, if not eclipse, the works of Tiffany, someone who actually paved the way for Tiffany’s work with his innovative work in stained glass. This was John LaFarge. I can’t remember the exact piece or location of the first time I saw his work except that it was somewhere in NYC. But I do remember the stunning colors and the lead work which held the glass pieces together. It was so different than that of other stained glass windows I had seen which was normally clean and neat, fitting for the solemnity of a church. But the LaFarge lead work I saw was rough and dark, dividing the opalescent glass but also becoming part of the composition in itself. His lines were organic and integral to the composition. It was remarkable.
I came across the image shown above recently, Samoan Dancing a Standing Siva, in a book about LaFarge’s travels to Tahiti and other South Pacific islands in the early 1890’s and about how this expedition changed his work. It’s interesting that the other artist whose work was transformed by Tahiti, Paul Gauguin, arrived on the island just days after LaFarge departed.
This piece of stained glass excites me very much in the use of line, especially in the naturalness and organic feel of them, as well as the contrast between the brilliance of the colors and the the darknesses that surround them. To me,this is simply magnificent, possessing those things that I want to see in my own work.
There is a Pinterest page with many of LaFarge’s more famous stained glass pieces, most of which are a bit more formal than this piece above. But it gives a nice overview of his work on one page. To see it click here.