On Saturday 9 April 2016, The Stained Glass Museum held an evening celebration to mark the recent acquisition of four stained glass panels by Geoffrey Clarke (1924-2014) and their completed installation. The event took place in the south transept of Ely Cathedral beginning with a reception and talks, followed by a private view in the Stained Glass Museum. Dr Loyd Grossman, Friend and supporter of the Stained Glass Museum, was our special guest.
After a wine reception, guests were welcomed by the Museum’s Chairman of Trustees, Elizabeth Stazicker and the Museum’s Curator, Jasmine Allen, who gave a brief introduction to the history of the acquisition, which had begun with the Museum’s former Curator visiting the late Geoffrey Clarke’s studio in 2009.
Some years had passed since these initial talks, but after Jasmine had visited the works in June 2013 it was clear they were special pieces which revealed Geoffrey Clarke’s importance as a stained glass artist and demonstrated the more experimental side of 20th century British stained glass. And so a fundraising appeal ‘The Geoffrey Clarke Stained Glass Appeal’ was launched, and after generous donations from individuals and a number of grant-giving bodies, the works were purchased in January 2014. Sadly, Geoffrey Clarke passed away a few months later on 30 October 2014, just a month away from his 90th birthday.
After specialist conservation of the panels, the installation, interpretation and display of the panels was complete by January 2016. Many individuals and organisations had helped along the way to purchase, conserve and display the artworks and Jasmine thanked them all, but in particular Geoffrey Clarke’s son Jonathan Clarke, who continues in his father’s footsteps as a successful sculptor, and Dr Judith LeGrove, the leading expert on Clarke’s artwork which encompassed prints, stained glass and sculpture.
Jasmine then introduced guests to our programme of short introductory talks, the first of which was on Clarke’s artistic career by Dr Judith LeGrove, Art Historian and author of Geoffrey Clarke: A Decade of Change (2013) and Geoffrey Clarke Printmaker: A Sculptor’s Prints (2012). Judith gave us a fantastic overview of Clarke’s artistic output in a variety of media, highlighting his major commissions, patrons and successes. The talk left us with a better understanding of the artistic and social context in which the stained glass artworks now belonging to the Museum were made, and drew attention to key themes and forms which appear across Clarke’s art in all media.
Following this, Nick Teed ACR (Senior Conservator) from York Glaziers Trust gave an overview of the conservation of these four artworks, explaining the challenges that the materials and structure of the artworks prevented to conservators and the approach taken by them which was minimum intervention. The conservation of Priest, which you can read more about on this blog, provided a very interesting case study. Merlyn Griffiths, the conservator who had worked on this panel, was in the audience, and many guests enjoyed hearing more about the conservation of this panel in the gallery following the talk.
Dr Loyd Grossman then gave a short speech in which he remarked on his own impressions of the significance of these artworks and their place within the context of the history of stained glass, which is so wonderfully illustrated by the Museum’s galleries. He encouraged guests to enjoy looking at the display and to show their support of the Museum by joining its Friends organisation.
Finally, our appetite whetted, guests feasted both eye and palette by ascending the steps to view the artworks in the Museum gallery as well as enjoying the buffet. A fantastic night was had by all.
The new Geoffrey Clarke artworks are now on display for all to enjoy, together with a temporary exhibition which explores these modern panels through photographs, original sketch designs and information about the conservation of the panels.
‘Geoffrey Clarke (1924-2014): A New Spirit in Stained Glass’ runs until October 2016.