To the taste of the English, the early glass was barbaric in color
for their climate. The lead lines of the fourteenth-century work
escaped notice altogether, while later they became a positive
disfigurement over the delicately painted figures on excessively
pale tones of glass.
The glass in the east window of the choir
of Exeter Cathedral represents the work of two different periods.
In the early years of the fourteenth century, a window smaller than
the present one was filled with figures painted under the direction
of Bishop Stapledon. Later in the century this was incorporated in
the present window when, following the fashion established by
Gloucester, it was decided to enlarge and rebuild entirely the east
window of the choir. The outer side lights and the upper tier of
three large tracery openings contain the glass of the original window,
supposed to have been executed for the authorities by
"Master Walter" from
Rouen (roo-eng), at that time a very celebrated center
of glass manufacture in France.
The central portion of the lower tier of
figures is the work of Robert
Lyen of Exeter, who, on the seventh of
May in the year 1389, was engaged "to glaze the great window newly
made at the head of the church behind the High Alter."
To make the old fit their new settings he
was obliged to paint new bases to lengthen them, and here he placed
the interesting row of shields bearing coats-of-arms of donors of the
window, or early bishops connected with the building of the cathedral.
Having the Gothic craftsman's sense of fitness, Robert Lyen did not
proceed to make the central part of the window in the new style of
perpendicular work. Rather, he made all the patterns of border and
canopy work similar to the old window, contenting himself with
designing some very rich patterns for the draperies of his figures.
For these he employed white glass instead of pinkish flesh color, as
had been the habit of the earlier workers, and painted the heads,
halos and crowns on one piece of glass enriched with yellow stain,
which he used also on the ornaments, borders and hair in his figures.
The window representing St. Edward the Confessor
in St. Mary's Church, Ross, is a very delicate bit of English glass
painting which exhibits the skill of the master painter at the very end
of the fourteenth century or possibly the beginning of the fifteenth
century, as it is commonly given that date.
The figures of St. Anne and the Virgin, like
that of St. Edward, are also beautiful examples of the fourteenth-century
glass painter's art.
Belonging to the fifteenth century, the figures
of St. Gregory, in All Souls College, Oxford, is remarkable for strength
and delicacy of execution combined. The very well managed lines of the
lead were clearly planned from the start on the part of the artist
craftsman and are placed in such fashion as to be a part of the drawing
of the figure, following the precepts of earlier work.
Though the monks who designed the great window
of Gloucester Cathedral were not as clear in drawing the human figure
as were some of their successors in later centuries, nevertheless they
succeeded in creating in this largest of English church windows one of
the most famous works of the fourteenth century. Lovers of stained glass
find an abundance of examples dating from the period known as Middle
Gothic in England (York, Wells, Ely, Oxford). Most admired all such
examples is the East Window of Gloucester Cathedral.
The glass of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, says L. F. Day, an English authority, "does not count for
much. The art of the glass painter ... re-awoke in England with the Gothic
revival of the nineteenth century. Early Victorian doings are interesting
only as marking the steps of recovery. Except for here and there a window
entrusted to E. Paynter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Edward Burne-Jones,
glass, from the beginning of its recovery, fell into the hands of men
with a strong bias towards archaeology. The charms of Burne-Jones'
design and of William Morris' color place the windows done by them among
the triumphs of decorative art."