November 14: Luminous LaFarge

2016/11/14 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1910 John LaFarge died.

Born into a wealthy family that supported his art studies in New York, Newport and Paris, and his later travels throughout the world, LaFarge fused his academic training with an interest in Japanese art that lead to his striking approach to drawing, composition and color.  His paintings of flowers will make you cry.

Starting in the 1870s he began working with architects in the design of brilliant interiors.  LaFarge was a great muralist, but he was even better in stained glass.  The medium enjoyed great popularity in the decades in which his career flourished, and LaFarge collaborated with architects of all stripes, from Henry Hobson Richardson (Trinity Church) to Richard Morris Hunt (the Biltmore Estate), filling the holes they put in the walls with narrative and decorative images that ornamented the room while staining the light that entered it with rich jewel tones and golden rays.  Once LaFarge got to it, light was no longer just extra brightness in a room: it was, truly, illumination.

With his great gifts for composition matched by his inquisitive and searching use of the material–including the invention of new kinds of opalescent glass and processes for fusing substances–LaFarge created some of the most stunning, richly colored, visually textured glass of the modern period.  Make sure to zoom in when possible on this and this and this and this and this, and then regret any room you have to spend any time in that has just plain old ho-hum colorless and flat glass in the windows.

Image: “Peonies Blown in the Wind,” ca. 1880, from the Met collection (from this source)

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You are currently reading November 14: Luminous LaFarge at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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