Stained Glass - Table of Contents

Wilbur H. Burnham Studios of Boston

Wilbur H. Burnham: 1887-1974. Born in Boston.

Among his most notable works are windows in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, Washington DC, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Riverside Church in New York City, Princeton University Chapel, and the American Church in Paris.

Although he died in 1974, the studio he founded in 1922 is still in operation. Located in Rowley, MA, it is operated by his grandson, Mr. Wilbur C. Burnham.

Excerpts from
The Stained Glass Association of America,
History of Stained Glass

American Neo-Gothic Stained Glass

Makers of neo-Gothic [Gothic Revival] windows referred to stained glass as, "the handmaid of the architecture." The initial impetus to develop stained glass in the United States in the early nineteenth century was the early Gothic Revival among Anglican and Episcopalian congregations. The architecture called for decorative leaded windows to compliment the churches. The major American Revival architects, Richard Upjohn ...

Gothic was the preferred church style in America from the late 1840s until the War Between the States; the stained glass trade gained a foothold during those years. Like the Classical, the Gothic style never disappears, but reemerges in popularity from time to time. The early twentieth century was a very rich period for American Gothic stained glass.

Wilbur H. Burnham began work in 1904 and had his own studio by 1922. All these Boston studios designed windows to serve the architecture.

Excerpts from
By Michael Tevesz, Nancy Persell,  Michael Wells, James Whitney
March 31, 1999, Pp. 14-15

Wilbur H. Burnham, Sr. founded his studio in 1922.  He secured his first commission  from Ralph Adams Cram. 

On tour with his family in Europe prior to the first World War, Burnham sketched famous stained glass windows in many cathedrals.  As an advocate of the medieval stained glass tradition, Burnham's philosophical compatibilities with those of  the enormously successful Cram led to commissions to provide windows for Cram's  churches in many of the major cities in North America. 

Burnham's son, Wilbur Herbert Burnham, Jr.(1913?-1984), joined the studios in the  late 1930s.   His education began as a child on tour with his parents in Europe and formalized at Yale University, where he received a BFA. 

The Burnhams were awarded the Metal D'Argent at the Paris Exposition of 1937.  Each served as President of the Stained  Glass Association of America.  Burnham, Sr. was elected in 1939 and during World War  II lobbied in Washington to obtain supplies of lead and tin for stained glass artists instead of the cigarette industry, where considerable supplies were directed. 

Burnham, Jr. served during 1959-1961.  Because of failing health, the younger Burnham put the studio up for sale in 1982.  When the studio closed, the Smithsonian Institution designated it as one of the four major studios (along with the Charles J. Connick Associates, Nicola D'Ascenzo, and Reynolds, Francis, and Rohnstock Studios) most deserving of having their works preserved.  Today, the studio’s records are in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.

Excerpts from
Sue Kimbel McGhie,
Wilbur Burnham and Gothic Revival Stained Glass

Burnham's first commission was for an architect named Ralph Adams Cram.

In a 1935 article in the journal Stained Glass, Burnham expresses his views about the importance of the medieval tradition in the harmony of the primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, with the complementary orange, green, and violet typical of his windows. His studies of medieval windows demonstrated that reds and blues should predominate and be in good balance. Burnham also noted that windows should maintain high luminosity under all light conditions.

See also: The Wilbur H. Burnham Studios

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