How to look at Stained Glass - A guide to the Church Windows of England by Jane Brocket.
Publisher: B Tauris. London, New York.
A Christmas Star.
At the risk of being accused of using cliché may I say that this book is a must for your Christmas gift list. The words quoted in the book- "Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord " (Bk of Daniel) - are an accurate summary of Jane Brocket's fine effort. Everything is there. All true art is a spiritual evolution. Every rational human being is a potential artist, a creative being with a soul. If art did not have a spiritual content it would have ceased long ago.
Stained Glass is so much a part of art. I am one of those who are convinced that the present time there is a 'Stained Glass' renaissance. Those like me who viewed Alan Yentob's excellent film (Imagine ! BBC) which followed David Hockney's venture into Stained Glass Art will know what I mean. David Hockney at 80 years was commissioned to create a window in Westminster Abbey to commemorate the long and glorious reign of Queen Elizabeth 11. A daunting task for an artist of his venerable years. But the result 'The Queens Window' is an enduring work of art. Mr. Hockney is fascinated with light and colour and that is evident in that masterpiece. The millions who will gaze up in wonder at the window in the years ahead, will be better armed to appreciate the window if they have Jane Brocket's volume under their arm.
The subtitle (A guide to the church windows of England) does not do Jane Brocket justice. It might scare away potential viewers who are not of a religious persuasion and that would be a great pity. They would misguided by such a view and benefit from such treasure. For this is not just a journey through some churches- it is above all a reflection on the 'Soul of England' - past, present and to come. That is what makes it such an inspiring adventure.
Way back in 1997 I was asked to build a church in the parish of Our Lady Queen of Apostles in Bishop's Waltham Hampshire. The Stained Glass window of Our Lady over he altar was designed by local artist Simon Knight who was very influenced by great artist 'Harry Clarke' The window has a particular Harry Clarke look to it. But the point I wish to make is that it was a community effort. Simon Knight invited and indeed encouraged the community to submit ideas and views and opinions. It was me and others' journey in the creation and production of the art of Stained Glass. I only wish that I had Jane Brocket's volume on my shelf, I would have seen more.
There is so much in the book that it is best you discover for your self, All life is there. There are two books in one and that is a bonus. You have a marvellous exciting text and some gripping black and white images as well as superb colour plates. My own favourite is 'Blobbs' the real-life Clergy House cat that belonged to Rev Arthur Stanton in the church of St Mary the Virgin..Wellingborough. Unforgettable !!!! Here in this detail you have two faces to look at...the face of the cat...staring at you and asking a thousand questions and the face of the priest looking mystically for a thousand answers ...at least that is my interpretation but you will make your own choice. The great thing about Stained Glass is that it moves because it is dependent on natural light and means it changes from second to second - from minute to minute-from day to day - from year to year. You never see the same image exactly the same twice. Stained Glass goes to sleep when the sun goes and wakes up when the sun rises.
All this is yours and more if you are lucky enough to get a present for Christmas of this book or if you rush out and grab a copy from your nearest book shop. To peruse it will make for a Wonderful Christ Feast.
Father John Buckley.
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