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Let There Be Light

Art Review
Haggerty Shines Light on Stained-Glass Artwork

Shepherd Express, Milwaukee
October 28, 2010

German Rosary Prayer by Albert Burkart

Albert Burkart,
German Rosary Prayer

The historical and spiritual context of stained-glass art only adds to the enjoyment of this form in the 21st century. Often, however, the beauty of the final product overshadows the creative process required to create stained-glass images and windows.

The fall exhibition at Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum of Art, titled “Let There Be Light: Stained Glass and Drawings From the Collection of Oakbrook Esser Studios” (through Jan. 2, 2011), provides examples of the extraordinary detail required for the production of such artwork.  Upon entering the museum’s Frederick Layton Gallery, one encounters the first steps involved in the stained-glass process, as showcased by large-scale drawings reclaimed from the Jacoby Art Glass Co.

Two pieces, Annunciation Angel and Mother and Child, drawn in charcoal on photosensitive paper from the late 19th century, beautifully demonstrate that the path to a finished piece stands alone as a work of art.  The faces of the life-size angel, as well as Madonna and baby, are exquisitely rendered.

Sepp Frank, Christ

Sepp Frank, Christ

An intimate room off of the first gallery highlights additional planning stages through miniature drawings by artists such as Leo Cartwright and Johann Minten.  Proposed 20th-century projects in gouache, watercolor and ink emphasize the exacting drawings and other steps that take place before the completion of stained-glass imagery.

Other galleries take advantage of the museum’s tall ceilings to highlight original and reproduced stained-glass windows.  Visitors will have plenty of fine choices from which to select their favorites, including portrayals of St. Agnes and St. Elizabeth and their accompanying life stories and the evocative Nativity created at Mayer of Munich, a German company founded in 1847 that still produces stained glass.

The final gallery displays contemporary interpretations; including works by Janet McKenzie, as well as a design by Wisconsin architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  Designed in primary hues for a residential playhouse, Wright’s stained-glass triptych Kinder Symphony recalls a balloon parade.  Gray shadows from the light reflected through this window cavort on the walls and floors.

A soft-cover catalog superbly describes the exhibition and further documents the significance of the artwork, demonstrating that Oconomowoc’s Oakbrook Esser Studios is a hidden metropolitan treasure.  The Haggerty Museum’s exhibition and catalog showcase this art form with excellence.



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