A New Development of the Art of Glass Painting.

Manufacturer and Builder 3, 1893

The art of staining and painting in connection with the production of brilliant colored images and other decorative effects upon glass, is an ancient one, which, originating aumong the Egyptians several thousand years ago, was borrowed by the Romans, and by them transmitted to their succeasors. It appears to have reached its culmination in the sixteenth century, and the superb specimens of this medieval art to be seen in the picture windows of European cathedrals exhibit the high attainments of the ancient artists.

The several branches of this splendid art have lately been revived, and it may be of interest to many of our readers to know that at the present the stained and painted glass, of a richness of design and coloring not exceeded in the history of the art, are now produced. Whether these superb productions will have the permanency of the ancient works which they fairly rival, time alone can tell.

Up to the present, the only methods practiced in this art have been those of staining and Painting with enamels upon the glans to fix the images thereon in permanent form; but if the anticipations formed concerning a recent invention of American origin are substantially realized, the world will witness the creation of what will practically he a new art, and the industry of glass painting will witness a remarkable expansion.

By this invention, it is claimed, it will be in the power of architects and builders to fix in their buildings representations in glass of the most beautiful and admired paintings of the world, free from the stiffness and artificiality familiar to us in the picture windows of our churches and other edifices, but with all the softness and beauty of the original. A brief account of the new process of glass painting, and of what it is claimed to be able to accomplish, will appear in the following. If it shall prove to realize the confident anticipations of its inventor, his claim to have created a new art will be freely granted. The following description will cover the ground:

For many years — it may be said centuries — decorators in glass have sought for some means by which the works of the old masters could be reproduced in glass in as permanent and beautiful a form and color as they once had on canvas or in stone. Instead of the cold and lifeless features usually observed in the pictures en glass in the various churches, suppose we could see the inspired face of the "Sistine Madonna" of Raphael. and the "Holy Family" and "Ascention" of Murillo, with all their wealth of color and beauty of drawing, placed in the windows of some great church as an aid to the devotions of the worshipers. This is what it is claimed can he done by the process just invented and patented by G. G. Rockwood, of New York. If this be so, can it he questioned that a new era has dawned in the development of glass painting? Copies of the world-renowned pictures of the old masters, the beautiful works of the painters of the present day, and counterfeit presentments of the figures and forms of our loved ones will be reproduced for us in a permanent form on a transparent sheet of glass, with the fidelity of a photograph and the beauty and color of a painting.

The process, while it is photographic, is really a new art — that is, the pictures are based on the well-known principle that solar and electric light decompose and render insoluble certain organic substances. Mr. Rockwood imprisons in an organic medium metallic salts and indestructible pigments, and thus makes his images. In other words, in gelatine and other similar substances combined with the salts of chromium, he mixes pigments which are practically indestructible. These are flowed, while in a warm solution, over glass plates, and when dry exposed to the action of light under a photographic negative; where the sensitive film has been affected by the light it becomes insoluble, while the portions protected from the action of the light are soluble, and will readily dissolve away in tepid water, leaving the pigment, in the decomposed gelatine and making the image. When dry, the glass fluxed and placed in a burning kiln and the image melted into the surface of the glass.

The light-sensitiveness of gelatine films when impregnated with salts of chromic acid has long been known and utilized in the arts of photo-lithography and the various processes of photo-engraving, but its application for the purpose described and claimed by Mr. Rockwood is a radical departure from previous practice, and opens a hitherto unexplored field of experiment having artistic possibilities. We will be pleased to follow up the development of so promising an invention.

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