John Hardman and Company: Pugin's glasspainters

The commissioning of windows from Hardman’s was initiated directly by the client, who would submit the project’s requirements to the firm in England. Hardman’s would then provide a watercolor of the proposed window for approval. When the client was satisfied with the design, a full-size cartoon would be made, and the glass cut, painted, and assembled in panels ready for export to the United States, normally through the port of Liverpool. From 1904 to 1913, Hardman’s windows were usually imported through the Church Glass and Decorating Company of New York, but sometimes Hardman’s dealt directly with individual clients. The president of the Church Glass and Decorating Company, Caryl Coleman (c. 1846–1930), the younger brother of the American painter Charles Caryl Coleman (1840–1928), understood the appeal of English stained glass, although it is interesting to note that earlier in his career he had worked in the Ecclesiastical Department of the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company making opalescent glass, which is very different in character. In connection with a window for Saint Ignatius Church, Coleman wrote, “Both the rector and the architect [Charles Coolidge Haight (1841–1917)] are more or less affected with Anglo-mania, hence the window must be extremely English.”5 In June 1907 the Church Glass and Decorating Company ordered a sample panel for trade purposes. It depicted Christ the Healer standing under a Gothic canopy, and below it was inscribed:
Painted by John Hardman & Co of London and Birmingham for the Church Glass and Decorating Company of New York to illustrate their work which embodies the mediaeval principles of stained glass painting revived and taught by Augustus Welby Pugin and continued by them.
Thus were the memory and achievements of Pugin revered more than fifty years after his death in a country that he had never visited and for which he had designed not a single building.

The glass daybooks in the Hardman archive record the details of each of the windows made for more than 130 American churches between 1882 and 1935. In many cases the watercolors, cartoons, and photographic records of completed windows are also preserved in the archive. Some architects and clergy progressively filled the windows of their churches with Hardman glass. An example is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, New York, for which Withers began to commission windows in 1891. By 1902 the cathedral had a set of forty-seven Hardman windows.

Even more spectacular was the Hardman contribution to Corpus Christi Church in Baltimore, for which a patron, Michael Jenkins (1842–1917), commissioned a total of sixty windows between 1889 and 1911 (see Fig. 3). Hardman’s was also called upon to supply a set of decorative panels depicting the stations of the cross in opus sectile (a type of mosaic work in which the component pieces are cut in shapes to fit the design) and traditional mosaic, panels for the apse in opus sectile, and metalwork items including engraved brass memorials to members of the Jenkins family (see Figs. 8, 10).

Among the secular commissions the firm undertook during this period, one of the most interesting is the Cornaro Window installed in 1906 in the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York (see Fig. 4). Consisting of five lights (or sections of glass) with tracery, the window was designed by A. W. N. Pugin’s grandson, Dunstan Powell, and depicts the conferring of the first doctorate in philosophy upon a woman, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia (1646–1684), by the University of Padua in 1678. The choice of subject reflects the mission of the college, founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar (1792–1868) to promote higher education for women. Both the window’s donor, Mary Clark Thompson, and Coleman of the Church Glass and Decorating Company emphasized the secular nature of the window and urged Powell to avoid the use of ecclesiastical imagery. Nevertheless, the central figure of Lady Cornaro standing in front of a Gothic throne, surrounded by adoring figures, bears an uncanny resemblance—albeit a secularized one—to the Coronation of the Virgin. The composition of the scene and the brilliant colors of the glass elevate and glorify the event depicted.6

Thank you for signing up.

by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

» View All