Worldwide the stained glass history rose with its early beginnings in one country at a time. The development of stained glass has been a struggling endeavor to evolve into what it is today. It has been a constant learning process for each and every country and each individual artist. Much like the ever changing stained glass itself, the process, the skills and the beauty of the finished pieces change as our appreciation continues to grow.
The creation of stained glass was not even a concept in its early beginnings, but developed slowly over time until it finally became perfected as a work of art. The history begun to unfold as glass became invented and it went through a series of discoveries before it became an every day reality such as glass window panes or bottles. Once the ability to make glass was overcome the next natural step was to intensify the beauty of glass with what we term as “stain glass”. The evolution of using minerals (metallic oxides and salts) to stain the glass created a new vivid world of color, images and designs forming a new vision of artwork and highly decorative windows. The early history began as building blocks taking us to the creative art forms you see today.
The first obvious appearance showed up in churches in the 10th century, with biblical scenes in German and French churches. Many people were uneducated and these scenes were often used as a teaching method. Much of today’s beautiful stained glass windows can be attributed to the transformation of churches into cathedrals during the Gothic age in Europe. Buildings were becoming taller with larger openings in thinner walls. Rather than using clear glass, artists began incorporating stained windows into the buildings design.
By the 18th century scientists, historians and amateur artists rediscovered the beauty of pieces and the stained glass history was back on track! English immigrants by the name of the Bolton Brothers were one of the first artists to establish stained glass studios in America. It wasn’t long there after, that two famous American painters would begin to change the history once again.
It was in the eighteenth century when Lafarge and atiffany started the glass experiments with hope to achieve some great visual effects, without painting glass as their predecessors had done. Today you know them from history as Louis Comfort Tiffany and John LaFarge. What had been a struggling time for the evolution of stained glass for centuries would now become the reality of stained glass today! These two gentlemen were competing rivals, creating and reproducing ornate stained windows used in both churches and private residences. By 1879 LaFarge had designed, developed and copyrighted opalescent glass. Both Tiffany and LaFarge were experimenting with highly colored glass, elaborate cuts, glass layering and plating techniques. They both succeeded in creating stained pieces rich in texture, depth and color. John LaFarge continued to develop his work for churches and private homes and he remains a very important part of the history that we know today.