Bringing to Light
Treasures from the Röttinger Stained-Glass Atelier (1848–1947)
25 January – 12 April 2015
From1830 to the Art Nouveau period, the art of stained glass flourished to an extent not seen since the Middle Ages. Churches once again glowed with coloured windows, stained glass illuminated local neighbourhoods, houses were decorated with heraldic panels, and people met in cafes and restaurants alight with images in glass.
The ancient art of glass painting was revived to a very high standard. In the workshops of the glass painters, riches accumulated in the form of knowledge, documents and drawings; these, however, remained well in the shadows of the windows themselves. When 19th-century art was later decried as kitsch or overly-sentimental, not only did numerous stained-glass windows fall victim to the subsequent clear-out, but also the contents of virtually all of the glass-painters’ workshops – so that nowadays little is known about many of the glass artists of this period.
The fate of the estate of the Röttinger dynasty of glass painters in Zurich is therefore an exceptional stroke of luck. The complete contents of this atelier, one of the most important in Switzerland from 1848 through into the 20th century, were preserved intact by the descendants, and are now stored in the Zentralbibliothek in Zurich. The contents comprise hundreds of preparatory works and cartoons, of sketches and models, and even the administrative records of the atelier. This invaluable collection has been the subject of a research project conducted by the Vitrocentre Romont, and thanks to the kind cooperation of the Zentralbibliothek, Zurich, can now be brought to light and displayed publicly for the first time.
This exhibition of the finest of these drawings, sketches and cartoons sheds light on the less well-known preparatory work leading up to the design of a stained-glass window; and rare documents provide an insight into the operation of a 19th-century atelier, from the practical way in which glass painters worked, right through to the conduct of relations with clients throughout the whole country.