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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

When I’m not sitting on a bench photographing birds, I’m sometimes at my desk reworking a design. This particular design was inspired by John La Farge’s use of color in the stained glass window, Purity, located at Trinity Church in Boston. The original scarf produced has a green border. A new dear friend applauded my design efforts and then she held the scarf to her skin and said, “Green isn’t my color. What can you do with blue?”

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Green has been replaced by blue and apparently blue does work well for a lot of people. The new blue trimmed scarf will be on the shelves at the shop at Trinity Church later this spring. Hope you have the opportunity to visit and see for yourself.

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https://www.instagram.com/trinitybostonshop/

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I still live in the house with rippled glass windows. Old glass with imperfections that when you sit or stand at just the right angle, at all different times of day, you can view a surreal scene of the world. The window I love best provides a portal to view different branches. The branches are still mostly bare and at least one of the trees is dead but it is home to many a bird so maybe the owners will allow it to stand a while longer.

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pastel window trim

I’m not sure I quite get Pantone’s “living coral” as Color of the Year but it did engage my brain … like the visual equivalent of a writing prompt … to seek out where that color might already be around me. I haven’t found it (yet) but I did chance upon a photo of decorative glass composed of other lovely pastel shades. And as I stared at that photo I began to imagine what might happen if I continue this new year with my interpretation and expression of John La Farge’s idea of “construction by color.” As you can see in the following slide show, you never know what might happen when you take colors, turn them on their sides, weave them together, shrink and repeat them … and so on and so forth until glass is translated into fabric.

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The scarf, 36 x 36, will soon be available exclusively at the shop at Trinity Church. You can follow the shop facebook page and instagram account to stay on top of this and other items I’m honored to have appear on the shelves.

 

 

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A new scarf designed for the shop at Trinity Church in Boston. It is 36 x 36 making it versatile as do the variety of bright, bold colors. It dresses up the simplest outfit. Coming January 2019. Inspired by the stained glass designer John La Farge.

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You’ll find this original design at the Welcome Center gift shop at Trinity Church in the City of Boston. The source of inspiration is the decorative detail found around the window Purity designed by John La Farge. You can learn more about the shop here.

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Before I leaned over the stairwell to photograph the window, I asked the gentleman at the front desk to listen carefully. If he heard a thud, he should come running. Luckily there was no thud and I was able to photograph an interesting decorative detail from the window, Purity, by John La Farge.

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In the early 1900s, during a lecture to young architecture students, John La Farge made the point that “The use of color in architectural decoration is not mere arrangement of pleasing tints. It is a matter of construction by color.” His philosophy is evidenced throughout Trinity Church. The rich colors and bold patterns he produced provide great inspiration for new custom merchandise from the simplicity of a square coaster to so much more including a green bordered 36 x 36 chiffon scarf, canvas pencil pouch and fountain pen. You’ll be able to find these items on the shelves of the shop at Trinity Church starting in January. Below is a slideshow of how a new pattern evolved from its original source. Hope you enjoy!

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Exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, in Padua, Italy

This particular walk (or ramble) through history began after reading a footnote by stained glass historian Virginia Raguin. In her online history of stained glass in America, there is a footnote that reads, “Client and patron intermingled intellectually and socially; Brooks, H. H. Richardson, and La Farge had viewed Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua together. See John La Farge, The Gospel Story in Art (New York, 1913, repr. 1926), 279. ” I first learned of Reverend Phillips Brooks, architect H. H. Richardson and painter and stained glass designer John La Farge through their creative collaboration that produced the National Historic Landmark Trinity Church in the City of Boston. But what were they doing hanging out socially? What was The Gospel Story in Art that, if indeed it was published in 1913, it was done so after La Farge’s death? Who was Giotto and was there something special about his Arena Chapel?

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Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886), John La Farge (1835-1910)

The first question is easy to answer. Born in the 1830’s, these gentlemen were of a generation. Though ostensibly from very different backgrounds, they were each members of a larger social class that would have socialized in the U.S. and abroad. With earned and/or inherited family wealth, they were expected to travel … the oceans were no barrier to lengthy tours of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The men were also connected by their attendance and/or connection to elite schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton. They would have attended the same literary and art salons in Boston, New York and elsewhere. Richardson and Brooks were friends long before Richardson entered the competition to build the new Trinity Church in Copley Square. And Richardson and La Farge were well-acquainted long before La Farge was asked to orchestrate the interior decoration of the new church. It would not be unheard of for these three men to be meandering about Europe and somehow meet up at a church. As for the second question …

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Painting of Mary Caldawader Jones, and self-portrait of John La Farge

Apparently, The Gospel Story in Art, was a labor of love for La Farge that he never completed. Today La Farge is most well-known for his stained glass windows but he began his career as a painter and muralist. Throughout his life he studied art (even when he thought he was to become a lawyer), and eventually he would become a prolific writer and lecturer on the subject. La Farge died in 1910 but his friend New York socialite and philanthropist Mary Caldawader Jones compiled his work, with the illustrations that he used as reference for his text, and had the book published in 1913.  In the preface she explains that La Farge “had cherished the wish to write a book on the representation of the Christian story in art, a work for which few men were so well-fitted. Born and educated in the older faith of Christendom, he brought to his task not only the reverence of a believer, but also full knowledge of the widely different forms through which the life of Christ has been expressed by artists.”

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I found the reference on Page 297 referred to in the footnote, and, if I do the math correctly based on some other information I know, the three men likely stood in that chapel in 1882. Yet I know from other letters, memoirs, etc. that at least Brooks and La Farge had visited the chapel earlier in their lives, La Farge in 1856 just as he was beginning his artistic studies in Europe, and Brooks possibly in 1865 as he took a respite from preaching in Philadelphia. The young La Farge was so moved by what he saw that, once back in the U.S., he purchased etchings of Giotto’s paintings.

By 1872, Brooks was Rector of Trinity Church in Boston. His friend Richardson was overseeing construction of the new church. They’d discuss wanting the interior to be colorful, atypical of a traditional Episcopal church. When, in 1876, they commissioned John La Farge to decorate, did they reference Giotto and the chapel in Padua?

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decorative detail of wall inside Trinity Church

H. H. Richardson died in 1886, and his friend Phillips Brooks passed away in 1893. Whenever the two men had stood in the Padua chapel with La Farge, this is what La Farge remembered of the moment in The Gospel of Art. “Let us turn once more to Giotto, as the greatest of all those who represent the history of Our Lord. … 

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In his book, La Farge references Giotto (c. 1267-1337), an Italian painter and architect, at least 49 times. He includes excerpts by Leonardo about Giotto as a leading figure in resurrecting art“…it was in truth a great marvel that from so rude and inapt an age Giotto should have had strength to elicit so much that the art of design, of which the men of those days had very little, if any, knowledge, was, by his means, effectually recalled into life.” A noted painter during his day, Giotto’s work in the Scrovengi Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, is considered his masterpiece. Frescoes depict the life of Mary and Jesus.

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detail from Last Judgment fresco

La Farge writes:

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scene from the life of Joachim

“Were we to stand before the painting of Giotto in Padua, we should find it difficult to realize, in our present habit of passing over legends, how important these legends once were …”

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detail from the Ascension

“If a movement of line can give the impression of sound, Giotto has done it … “

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In earlier essays in his life, La Farge describes how his youthful travels in France and Italy, and in England among the Pre-Raphaelites, influenced his understanding and use of color. But only in this book do I suspect that he rhapsodizes about Giotto in a book that is about art and perhaps about La Farge’s connecting with his faith. One can only wonder what lasting impressions were made when a 21-year old La Farge first walked into that church.

Sources & Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrovegni_Chapel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_La_Farge

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Hobson_Richardson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Brooks

http://college.holycross.edu/RaguinStainedGlassInAmerica/Home/index.html

http://college.holycross.edu/RaguinStainedGlassInAmerica/Museum&Church/Museum&Church.html

Image Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mary Cadwalader Rawle Artist: William Oliver Stone (1830–1875) Date: 1868 Medium: Oil on canvas Dimensions: Oval: 12 x 10 1/2 in. (30.5 x 26.7 cm) Classification: Paintings Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Max Farrand and Mrs. Cadwalader Jones, 1953

The Gospel Story in Art by John La Farge page 297

The Gospel Story in Art (Archive.org)

Playful Padua by Rick Steves

Web Gallery of Art: Frescoes in the Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

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