Posts Tagged ‘John La Farge’

I have an unofficial postcard club of 5, 6 and 7 year olds.  It is mostly a quarterly mailing of nature-themed images.  I have offered to hand the postcards to my young friends but they seem to like the idea of a handwritten note, a stamp applied, and the piece of paper traveling around the world (so to speak) before winding up in their mailbox, addressed to them specifically.  I have told the older ones that one day soon I expect a note in return.  😉

If you follow this blog, you know how much I love producing postcards of the stained glass windows at Trinity Church in Copley Square.  Of late, I’ve been focusing my attention on the painted walls.  Expect a future post about the original paintings orchestrated by John La Farge in the late 1800s and later painting done over the decades during various renovations.

This postcard is of St. Paul on the west porch of Trinity Church.  I especially love the reflection of the church in the glass of the neighboring John Hancock building.  This postcard is now available at the Shop at Trinity Church.

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These are the hands of St. Paul, St. Peter and Jesus as painted by John La Farge in the murals for Trinity Church.  I was inspired to create this compilation by the moving images and words in Steve McCurry’s recent post, The Language of Hands. I may write more about hands in the future, but for now, I hope you enjoy these images.

St. Paul’s hands

St. Peter, the key in his hand

Jesus with Nicodemus, hands resting

Hands of Christ and Woman at the Well

St. Paul Mural by John La Farge, 1877

St. Paul

The Visit of Nicodemus to Christ by John La Farge, 1878

The Visit of Nicodemus to Christ


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Detail from Purity by John La Farge, 1885

Detail from Purity by John La Farge

Designed and executed by artists and stained glass manufacturers like John La Farge, Clayton and Bell, Burlison and Grylls, and others, these particular stained glass windows at Trinity Church in the City of Boston are “hidden gems.”

Detail 2 from Purity by John La Farge, 1885

Detail 2 from Purity by John La Farge

They are located in the Parish House. In part, due to renovation activities at different times over the past 100 years, some of the windows are now in stairwells, like Purity as well as John Hardman and Company’s Woods Window

The Woods Window, executed by John Hardman and Company

The Woods Window, executed by John Hardman and Company

others are in restricted areas like Ephphatha by Burlison and Grylls …

Detail from Ephphatha by Burlison and Grylls

Detail from Ephphatha by Burlison and Grylls


and others in areas dedicated to use by parishoners of all ages like The Sunday-School Windows by Clayton & Bell.  

They are not windows accessible as part of a traditional art and architecture tour of the sanctuary, but it has been my pleasure this summer to roam the halls a bit with my camera and to share this glimpse of details from some of the windows. Postcards and prints, and information about tours, are available at the Trinity Book Shop.

Interior of Trinity Church in the City of Boston, Copley Square

Interior of Trinity Church in the City of Boston, Copley Square


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In The Art and Thought of John La Farge, author Katie Kresser writes that John La Farge (1835-1910) completed his first sketch of Nicodemus and Christ in 1874.  That biblical encounter is a subject that La Farge would depict in several different forms over time.  Here is a sketch dated 1877 in the Yale University Art Gallery, and here is an oil painting completed in 1880, now housed at the Smithsonian.  He would also create a stained glass window for the Church of the Ascension in New York.  The following image, The Visit of Nicodemus to Christ, is a photograph of the mural La Farge painted on the walls of Trinity Church in Boston.

The Visit of Nicodemus to Christ, mural by John La Farge

The Visit of Nicodemus to Christ, mural by John La Farge, 1878

It is one of several murals that La Farge painted inside the building with the aid of assistants like Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Francis D. Millet and Francis Lathrop.  I keep photographing them because I think that there is always something new to see and experience.

In the literature of the time period critiquing his work, there is often reference to La Farge’s use of color in the murals that borders on the poetic.  For example, “In his “Christ and Nicodemus,” … we find the color quality strongly dominant. … the rich blues vein the draperies and background like the threads in a Flemish tapestry …” (The Churchman newspaper, July 6, 1901).

Christ Woman at Well, mural in Trinity Church by John La Farge

Christ Woman at Well, mural by John La Farge, 1877

The beauty of La Farge’s murals is constant but their colors do shift in the light.  Different details become present depending upon where one stands and at what time of day.

David, mural by John La Farge

David, mural by John La Farge, 1877

My favorite is perhaps the painting of David, because of the colors and especially for the expression on the young man’s face.

I had originally titled this post “in his own words” because I came across John La Farge: A Memoir and a Study compiled by Roy Cortissoz, literary and art critic for the New York Tribune, and La Farge’s friend.  In the book, completed in 1911 shortly after La Farge’s death in 1910, La Farge reminisces about what it was like painting the murals at Trinity under tight time constraints, in poor health, up high on scaffolding.  Reading the words made me appreciate the skills of all the artists even more.  If you’d like to read La Farge’ account, begin at the end of page 31 of the book, available online here.

Learn how you can see these murals and other architectural and design features at Trinity Church first hand here. Postcards of some of these images available via The Shop.

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As a child in Virginia I never imagined that I’d spend so much time as an adult in a place like Trinity Church watching sunlight stream through stained glass windows and play upon walls designed and painted by the likes of artist John La Farge.  This is a photograph of one of those murals.  I’m pleased at how it turned out as a postcard.  Soon to be available in the church Book Shop.  There is a wealth of information available in books and online about John La Farge.  I found particularly interesting this article about the rivalry between La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Below are a few additional images of the murals.  Just a tease really because no picture can compare to the real thing. 😉

Learn more about the artist John LaFarge, architect Henry Hobson Richardson and much more on the church website.

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Detail from stained glass window by La Farge in Trinity Church, Copley Square

Detail from stained glass window by La Farge in Trinity Church, Copley Square

Recently, that fellow in my life, S.,  went to the grocery store.  He stood in line with his basket of goods.  No doubt, something delightful for us like smoked salmon and cheese.  In front of him, a woman leaned against her cart.  Two children played about her legs.  The cart contained bulk items like cornmeal and potatoes, a few greens and some milk.  Later, he told me that she looked so worn, her eyes so dark.  After her purchases were rung up and bagged, she pulled out her purse.  The man stepped forward and said to the cashier, “I will pay for it.”  The woman said nothing.  She put away her purse, grabbed her children and pushed her cart away.  She did not say thank you, nor did he need her to.


One day I stood at the bus stop.  I’d underdressed.  The wind blew hard and I was so cold.  Even as I huddled unto myself, I felt a tap upon my shoulder.  I turned around.  A young college student stood.  He held out his coat.  “Would you like to wear this until the bus comes?”  I took him up on his offer.  I said thank you, but I forgot to ask his name.


Growing up in Virginia, as soon as spring was sprung and all the snow was gone, my father would head out to our little garden patch with his metal shovel and begin to turn the earth.  It was ritual.  But one year, he had a stroke and was unable to go out and so my younger brother and I took the shovel to the garden.  It stood taller than either of us. We tried pushing the blade beneath the soil together but we were not strong enough.  But we continued on because unless that garden was created all would not be right with the world.  At some point, “out of the blue,” a man appeared.  A next door neighbor that did not get along with my parents.  He was curmudgeonly.  He had brought with him his fancy tiller.  He grunted and that was all he said to tell us to get out of the way.  And then he turned the earth for us.  I don’t know if my dad ever thanked him, but we did plant a garden that year.


There are many evil deeds done every minute of every day but there are also those random acts of kindness.  That is what I try to keep in mind.

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