Lawrence Lee: Stained-glass artist acclaimed for his work on Coventry Cathedral

Lawrence Lee was a stained-glass artist whose work brought light and colour to churches and cathedrals around the world, including remarkable large-scale projects at Coventry, Southwark and Guildford.

Lee was born in London in 1909, grew up in Weybridge and studied at Kingston School of Art. He graduated in 1930 from the Royal College of Art, where he studied under Martin Travers, another of the great stained-glass artists of the 20th century, and became his studio assistant. Travers had an enormous influence on Lee and his contemporaries in combining modernism with glass-making traditions dating back to the Middle Ages. Lee remained linked to the RCA, later becoming its Head of Stained Glass (1948-1968), following in Travers' footsteps.

In 1956 the architect Sir Basil Spence commissioned stained-glass windows as part of the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by wartime bombing in 1940. Spence took a holistic approach, noting in an academic paper at the time that, "I am against the inclusion of stained glass as an afterthought, and I believe that the architect as leader of the team should collaborate at the earliest possible stage with his engineers and artists." Lee was one of three glass artists who designed the series of 10 nave windows, representing a pilgrimage through life, from infancy to maturity and fulfilment in the afterworld. John Willis, archivist and art historian at Coventry Cathedral, observes that "...Lee, with the two other members of the team, Keith New and Geoffrey Clarke, created a symbolic language of colour and light, combining figurative motifs and abstract forms in a way that is at once beautiful and spiritually moving in its expression of the Christian message."

Coventry established Lee's reputation and led to a wide range of projects, nationally and internationally. The magnificent three-panel south window of Southwark Cathedral's retrochoir was completed by Lee in 1959. The brief in this case was to show scenes from the history and rebuilding of the cathedral. Lee's designs represent religious figures but also craftsmen, such as a carpenter and a glazier on a ladder, providing a striking tribute to the builder Thomas Rider, who had funded an earlier reconstruction of the nave in 1895.

Lee was a skilled practitioner, theoretician and teacher who never lost sight of the need to pass on his immense knowledge to the next generation of glaziers, through formal education and in a series of three books on the subject. Stained Glass (1967) was published by Oxford University Press in its Handbooks for Artists series. Aware of the needs of conservation in stained-glass work, and ever conscious of the possibilities of modern technologies in his art, he made a practical plea to scientists in this text, asking for help in researching "...the use of modern industrial resins in the services of art and architecture where rather different problems occur from those that have been already solved for industry." His advice to students included the wise words that images of doves in stained glass, representing the Holy Spirit, should not look like stuffed pigeons.

He followed his first book with Stained Glass, An Illustrated Guide to the World of Stained Glass (1976), in conjunction with George Seddon and Francis Stephens and The Appreciation of Stained Glass (1977), which concentrated less on the pedagogy and more on the history and enjoyment of the art.

Lee's creations in glass were not restricted to religious settings. For example, he also produced abstract designs of windows for the Royal Society of Chemistry at Burlington House and a panel for the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass (1975).

In 1974 he was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Stained Glass Artists, and was a Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters. Never forgetting his own time as an artist's assistant, Lee was one of the few glaziers to recognise the work of his assistants by including their initials within his own monogram signature.

Lawrence Lee, stained-glass artist: born London 18 September 1909; married 1940 Dorothy (two sons); died 25 April 2011.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Temporary Teacher of GEOGRAPHY ...

Supply Teachers needed in Salford!

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Nursery Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Nursery Assistants RequiredNursery Assis...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments