Stained glass and mosaic are among the oldest craft forms in the world. These were very popular in Europe, even before paintings and wall murals. Stained glass and mosaics have historically been incorporated into architectural structures and in their early stages, these art forms developed primarily in gothic cathedrals, churches and places of religious worship. The earliest form of mosaic dates back to 8th century B.C. Due to the easy accessibility to view these two art forms, their beauty was often over looked as something inherent. However, over the years, there has been an increased appreciation of their aesthetic value; and the art forms have moved beyond architectural structures and into the realm of unique and individual art creations. Social, political and industrial change in the 19th Century impacted stained glass greatly and the international exchange of techniques, ideas and designs took shape.
The practice of making stained glass and mosaics remains authentic to the medieval time even today. However, the subject matter and themes have changed and evolved over time, which has factored in various influences. To create a work in these two mediums, it is very important to have a clear understanding of glass, light, colour and structure. The subject of the design is often determined by the space and size keeping in mind external factors influencing the viewing of her works. Stories, myths and characters from the Old Testament and the Bible, were recreated in stained glass and mosaic. These narratives and portraits were depicted as decorative ways in which to inform the people of these significant events and important saints, kings and bishops of the period. Today, they are keepers of history and evidence of faith, styles and beliefs of previous centuries.
8Contemporary stained glass and mosaic have carried forward some elements of story-telling to present times. Drawing from the structures of medieval stained glass and mosaic, contemporary styles of these art forms go beyond traditional depictions. With the use of vibrant colours and abstract designs, today’s style incorporates influences from art periods such as – Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Modernism and Bauhaus; as well as from the Aesthetic Movement in stained glass that drew inspiration from nature and natural forms. Narratives extend into landscapes; floral motifs and abstract patterns. The end of the 19th and early 20th century saw this neo-liberal style of stained glass and mosaic being patronised by famous architects and designers such as Otto Wagner, Antoni Gaudi, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Tiffany. Stained glass arrived in Mumbai in the 19th century with the influence of British architecture and commissioned works that were imported by Parsi and Jewish communities to beautify their homes and public structures.
Along with the aesthetic pleasure that stained glass and mosaics provide, they are also very sustainable forms of art. Unlike normal glass, stained glass and mosaic are more resistant to damage due to the technical manner in which they are created. As proved by time and history, the art forms of stained glass and mosaic are attributed with the quality longevity. Today, these art forms are a resurgence of everyday life – they can be incorporated into furniture, wall murals, skylights, gazebos, lamps, sculptures and various surfaces that come alive with their stunning and surreal beauty – an antique art form with a contemporary edge!