A Brief History Of Stained Glass Art - Wild Wings

A Brief History Of Stained Glass Art

Stained glass has an ancient and “colorful” history that stretches back at least to the fourth century.

When we speak of “stained glass” we are properly referring to glass that has had a color added to it by the introduction of metallic oxides during the glass manufacturing process. Ancient craftsmen discovered that different additives produced different hues, which then led them to intentionally produce glass of specific colors.

Once the glass had cooled, it could be shaped and then pieced together to produce works of decorative art. These fragments can be held in place by various materials, including lead, copper foil, stone, and ceramic clays.

Stained Glass Art: Not Just Windows

The first known pieces were not windows but most likely just functional items that had been given a decorative finish using colored glass pieces.

We have some evidence that stained glass dates back to at least the ancient Roman Empire. It appears that during this time, Roman craftsmen began using colored glass to produce items such as decorative housewares.

Archeologists have found few fully intact stained glass pieces from this period. Perhaps the best known piece that exists is the Lycurgus Cup that dates back to as early as the fourth century.

Stained glass goblet

(Photo by Johnbod)

By the 7th century, however, ancient glassmakers began turning their attention to windows. More specifically, windows for religious structures. Soon, stained glass windows were being placed in abbeys, convents, and other religious buildings.

Archeologists working at St. Paul's Monastery in Jarrow, England in the 1970s discovered what is perhaps the earliest known example of stained glass that is known to still form part of a window

And Europe was not the only region working with stained glass.

According to the website  Historyofglass.com,

“Stained glass was also produced by Arab architects in the Middle East in the 8th century. Jabir ibn Hayyan ,the Persian chemist described 46 original recipes for producing colored glass in Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna (The Book of the Hidden Pearl).”

But the artform and craft of stained glass and stained glass windows, flourished in Europe during what is now known as the Gothic period. In the 13th and 14th centuries, stained glass windows took on an elevated prominence in elaborate and monumental cathedral designs.

However, going into the Medieval era, painted surfaces began to overtake the enthusiasm for stained glass and the artwork withered and sank into obscurity.

Stained Glass Art: Decline and Rebirth

The fortunes of stained glass art shifted almost 400 years later during the late 17th century as artisans, craftsmen, and architects looked back to the classic Gothic-style for their buildings.

This movement, known as the Gothic Revival, was an architectural movement that began in the late 1740s in England and its long-lived momentum carried all the way into the early 19th century.


stained glass window

(Photo by Brittney Burnett)

The movement developed neo-Gothic styles which sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture and, along with that, a revived interest in stained glass also blossomed. While the openings for the neo-Gothic windows were Gothic in style, the stained glass art used in the windows was a mixture of both old and new.

Towards the latter half of this movement, which lingered into the mid-19th century, another movement arose that also embraced the medium of stained glass and added its own imprint on the craft.

Arts and Crafts Movement and Stained Glass Art

A movement that began in the 1880s and became known as the Arts and Crafts Movement triggered a second, additional resurgence in stained glass art popularity.

An entryat Wikipedia notes that,

“The Arts and Crafts movement emerged from the attempt to reform design and decoration in mid-19th century Britain. It was a reaction against a perceived decline in standards that the reformers associated with machinery and factory production.”

Leading craftsmen, architects, and artists who reveled in Arts and Crafts stained glass include Charles and Henry Greene, William Morris, John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

And, for many of us today, the name Tiffany in particular is immediately associated with stained glass windows, lamps, and other decorative objects known collectively as Tiffany Glass, and with the artistic style that came to be known as Art Nouveau.

stained glass art

(Photo public domain)

This second art movement has had an impact and influence on stained glass art that continues today though few may be aware of it. Stained glass art today is a vibrant and eclectic mix of styles, mediums, and formats that offer something beautiful for every taste.

Stained Glass Art from Wild Wings

Wild Wings offers exclusive and high quality stained glass art​  for sale in several designs, including nature-themed shapes and images from well-known paintings of wildlife art.

Not only would these stained glass pieces be perfect in your own home, but they would also make wonderful gifts for the nature-lover in your life!

Our Stained Glass Artwork collection features stunning pieces from artists such as Rosemary Millette, Susan Bourdet and Persis Clayton Weirs. Browse now to find the perfect piece for you.

Wild Wings is the leader in wildlife themed art, and we pioneered the wildlife art industry with over 2,500 print editions produced since 1968.

Today, Wild Wings stocks over 1,000 ​outdoor and wildlife art prints​ representing 75 of America’s top artists and our Wildlife Art collection offers buyers the perfect combination of beauty, quality, comfort, and uniqueness.

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