GALLERIES by Leigh Hatts
STAINED glass artist Christopher Whall discovered his vocation to devote his life to Catholic art" in 1876 at Lucca in Italy. Today his influence is everywhere including the recent Christmas stamps which featured the work of his pupil, Catholic artist Paul Woodroffe.
But all VVhall's windows are in Anglican or Non-conformist churches. On returning from Italy he joined the Rosminian community at the just reopened St Etheldreda's in London's Ely Place. Wartime bombing has destroyed Whall's very first series of windows which he designed for St Etheldreda's.
By chance the churchwarden of nearby Anglo-Catholic St Alban's, Holborn. was architect John Sedding, who encouraged Whall and commissioned his first important window for the Lady Chapel of St Mary's, Stamford.
Whall had been deeply frustrated by the result of his Ely Place windows which were executed by one of the trade firms. To him they were scarcely recognisable and he realised that it was not enough to just design. Throughout the 1880s he taught himself the entire craft, and as an artist-craftsman his own rul-s demanded that he must "not direct what he cannot practise"
and that he "be prepared sometimes to make sacrifices of profit for the sake of art".
As someone associated with the Arts and Crafts period, it is appropriate that his windows are in Sedding's outstanding Holy Trinity, Sloane Street His much-reprinted book Stained Glass Work brought commissions pouring in from new catherloals in South Africa and churches in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
The last exhibition of Whall's work was in 1979 at the William Morris Gallery in Walthaunstow where deputy keeper Peter Con/lack is trying to track down the only surviving work undertaken for a Catholic church. The Christ Child and the young St John the Baptist with their mothers and Christ with the Doctors in the Temple were in the Convent of Notre Dame's chapel at Birkdale, near Southport, until about 1953 when they were removed.
It is understood that they were given to a Catholic church "somewhere in the south of England". Any readers recognising the Whall windows should contact Peter Cormack (081-527 3782).
At London's Crafts Council Gallery The Glass Show (until Sunday: free) is focussing on small scale objects such as Liz Lowe's Angel Icon. But Glass Show II in 1995 will look at stained glass. The influence of Christopher Whatl should be found there.