Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
and justice for all
Submitted by Susan Miller on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 16:58.
When was the last time you went inside the Cuyahoga County Courthouse? Did you visit to find Justice? If so, here are some directions: once past tangle of guards, pocket content checkers and metal detectors walk into the voluminous lobby area, up the stairs and into marble column heaven. Look to your right as you face north and Justice will reveal herself to you. You'll gasp.
"Justice," a stained glass window on the east stairway of the Great Hall, by Frederick Wilson of the Tiffany Studios, executed by the Gorham Glass Works of New York City
“The marble staircase, with its two approaches to the second floor, rises to a large stained glass window, representing Justice, which is placed to catch the rising sun. Designed by Frederick Wilson* and Charles F. Schweinfurth, and executed by the Gorham Glassworks for New York City, the allegorical presentation shows the figure without covered eyes, to indicate that justice should see not only the letter but also the spirit of the law. The figure's right hand is covered in mail, while her left hand is uncovered, representing the New Dispensation of justice tempered with mercy. The tablets of the Ten Commandments are on both sides of her, while the city in an orb (from the twenty-first chapter of the Apocalypse, the celestial city of St. John's vision descending from heaven to establish perfect justice and freedom) above the figure descends through the represented order of the universe.”
*Frederick Wilson was born on November 3, 1858, in Great Britain. He came to the United States at some time not yet discerned and took up residence at Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, New York. In England, he was a pupil of Charles Wilson. He was a member of the New York Architectural League and the Academy of Philadelphia. In 1900, he received the gold medal in the Paris Exposition. Besides the two works, "Appeal," a painting and "Law," a stained glass window, in the Cuyahoga County Court House, Wilson also prepared and executed the cartoons for the Wade Park Memorial in Lakeview Cemetery of the mosaics. His work also includes ecclesiastical commissions at St. Clement's Church in Philadelphia , the All Saints' Church in Briarcliff, New York, and the Third Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He designed wall papers and for a good part of his working career was associated with the Tiffany Studios. The date of his death has not been discovered yet by the appraiser.” He died in 1932.
* Frederick Wilson (1858-1932) was one of the most prolific ecclesiastical leaded-glass designers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and yet to date remains one of the least well-known. His anonymity is due in part to the fact that he spent the majority of his career working for the large and prominent studio owned by Louis Comfort Tiffany. It was Tiffany’s name, as the owner, that was associated with the output of his company rather than the individual artists who designed and produced the work, a common practice of the period. Although Wilson is not widely known today he was likely a recognized artist of his time. His name appeared in many period sources that discussed and announced work coming out of Tiffany Studios.
Wilson was born and raised in the United Kingdom. His father was a painter and it is probably from him that Wilson received his first lessons in drawing and design. Wilson was an established artist by the time he immigrated to the United States sometime between 1891 and 1892. He began his career at Tiffany Studios shortly after he arrived in America. It is his experience and style as a painter that sets his work apart from other ecclesiastical designers at Tiffany Studios and defines ecclesiastical windows at Tiffany Studios from the mid-1890s until the mid-1920s. His drawing and painting skills are seen both in the composition of his work and in the painting of faces on the windows themselves.
Wilson worked for Tiffany Studios for nearly 30 years and would act as the head of the ecclesiastical department for much of that time. While most of his work was executed by Tiffany Studios he also designed for other companies producing leaded-glass including Heaton Butler & Bayne, Godwin Studios, The Gorham Company, Judson Studios, and the Los Angeles Art Glass Company.
An in-depth study of the work of Frederick Wilson gives greater insight into the ecclesiastical work coming out of Tiffany Studios during the height of its leaded-window production. It also affords a perspective on how a window designer from this period worked, at times, as an itinerant artist, how his style conformed to his employer’s (known in part from his personal letters), and how his design aesthetic took an abrupt turn near the end of his career and life.
all photos by Jeff Buster
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