Stained-Glass Artistry

Posted by Daniel on Sep 8, 2009 - 5 comments

Vancouver historian Chuck Davis writes: Vancouver’s Robert Watt, a stained-glass enthusiast (and the Chief Herald of Canada from 1988 to 2007), says that if you stand in Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Westminster on a clear, early morning you will see the three great stained glass windows there on the east wall behind and above the altar begin to glow. “The window on the left as you face the altar is a memorial to the late Dr. A. W. Sillitoe, the first bishop of the New Westminster Diocese. On the right is a pentecostal scene (depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit on to the apostles) . . . and in the middle is a portrait, in rich reds and golds, of Christ in Majesty. The effect as the sun rises behind those windows is extraordinary.”

The man who designed the windows, the late James Blomfield, has much work in stained glass all around the Lower Mainland. One of his more spectacular and well-known achievements is the beautiful representation of the Three Graces that visitors to the Mansion (now called Romano's Macaroni Grill) in Vancouver's West End admire while they dine. Those three windows were designed and installed in 1901 when the house, built by sugar magnate B. T. Rogers, was known as Gabriola. Also Blomfield's work is the Queen Victoria window in St. Paul's Anglican Church in Vancouver's West End.

The evidence of Blomfield's artistic talents most often seen by us was the coat of arms for Vancouver that served as the city's emblem for more than 60 years. He designed it in 1903, and it was used until 1969. Today's arms, although different and much simpler in design, are based on Blomfield's original conception.

Watt describes Blomfield as “the outstanding Canadian stained glass artist of the pre-1950s period.” What's extraordinary is that all of his gorgeous work came out of a rough workshop in what was then bush at West 10th Avenue and Columbia Street. This was the firm of James' father, Henry Bloomfield. (Sometime around the turn of the century, James dropped one of the 'o's from his surname.) Henry Bloomfield started the first local art glass firm in New Westminster in 1890, and moved to Vancouver in 1898 with his two sons, Charles and James. James left Vancouver for Toronto in 1920. The fine example of his work shown here is at the Woodlawn Park Mausoleum in Guelph, Ont.

Labels: ARTS