Stain Glass Painting reached its height as a Gothic Art form in Medieval Europe. It was used in the great churches and cathedrals of the time, to fill up large window openings. These stained glass windows were an ensemble of pieces of colored glass joined together with lead to create patterns. These windows depicted stories from the Bible and the lives of saints. Such stain glass work achieved its full effect when the sun shone through the windows. Then, the figures sprang to life, filling the dark interiors with color and light. The belief was that in the presence of beauty, it was indeed possible to lift the souls of men closer to God.
In the eighteenth century, however, many of these windows were removed and destroyed. They were replaced by painted glass.
In the mid-1800's, when stain glass painting was revived, a few modifications were made to the original technique. Thin strips of copper now began to be used in place of lead, as these facilitated intricate designs. Louis Comfort Tiffany adapted this new method to create beautiful lampshades and windows of opalescent glass.
In India, stain glass painting started as a hobby art. Today it has become a very popular form of painting, and a lucrative profession as well.
Types of Stain Glass Painting
There are two methods of creating stain glass paintings:
- Glass pieces are etched and stuck on a thick sheet of glass, to complete a pattern.
- Special paints for glass are used to create the desired design.
Types of Stain Glass Paint
Stain glass paints are usually water or gum arabic based, and are applied using a brush. They are fired onto the glass, using a kiln, the heat of which makes the paint bond to the glass permanently. There are several types of stain glass paint:
Vinegar Trace Paint
Oil Based Paints
Vinegar Trace paint
This paint is dark and is used to completely block out the light. It is used for figure and design lines. It is mixed with water and vinegar and gum Arabic. The latter helps it stick to the glass. This paint is applied on wet glass using a wet brush. Once the paint is dry, it is scraped or scratched to give the painting texture and depth. After firing, it becomes shiny.
This paint is used for filling in backgrounds and adding shadows. It uses a base of water mixed with either gum Arabic or vinegar. It is fairly easy to use and can be applied thinly or thickly, and may be blended as well to achieve interesting textures. This paint is normally applied over tracing paint, as it is more transparent.
This paint is usually used to add accent color. It is called so because of the presence of silver nitrate in it. After firing, this paint turns golden, not silver.
Oil-based stained glass paints
These paints use an oil-turpentine base. They come in more colors than the other paints, are relatively easier to work with, and remain unaffected by general atmospheric conditions. Their major disadvantage, however, is that they are not very consistent in application. Not only do they not mix easily or thoroughly, they sometimes donot fire evenly either.
The Themes of Stain Glass Painting
These are many and varied. Karishma Bajaj, a noted Indian author, aptly sums them up: “The patterns that one can create on glass could be something that represents nature such as birds, animals, insects, flowers, trees; an entire scenery like the countryside, a village, etc. Then one can work on people and situations. For instance it could be a glass painting of a well-known public figure. Most Indian glass artists prefer ethnic and traditional themes such as paintings of the Gods and Goddesses, etc.”