Louis Comfort Tiffany was born on February 18, 1848, the son of a New York jeweler and silversmith. He was first a painter and then an interior designer before turning his full attention to art glass. While visiting Europe, North Africa and the Middle East as a young man, he had fallen under the twin spells of the medieval stained-glass windows of Europe's cathedrals and the long buried ancient iridescent glass being unearthed by archaeologists.

Around the turn of the century, Tiffany was designing and making glass for the finest houses in America and, for some forty years, the Tiffany Studios produced a vast range of decorative and useful objects for the American and foreign markets. He had been influenced by William Morris, one of the leading Art Nouveau artists in England, who sought the lustre effects reminiscent of mother-of-pearl. As a result, Tiffany, almost single-handedly, created an American version of the essentially European Art Nouveau movement.

The Tiffany Glass Company was founded in 1885 and new methods of window construction were patented by him. His craftsmen worked closely with other manufacturers to create the various forms of glass required. Through this cooperation was developed the elegant and impressive material called 'drapery' glass which gave a three-dimensional look to the piece. New methods of using varying thicknesses of glass were explored, achieving effects never before attained.

Tiffany found that so-called 'imperfect' glass being used for everyday objects was "richer, finer and ... more beautiful... in color than any glass (he) could buy". He experimented by treating glass with metallic oxides, exposing it to acid fumes and rolling it during manufacture. He continued to develop 'opalescent' glass, a technique first used by John LaFarge, of producing a marbled type of glass by pressing thin layers of different coloured glass together and then fusing them with heat. The result was an opaque, often milky glass mottled with colour. Tiffany achieved effects of shading by employing light and dark opalescent pieces and only the face or skin tones were sometimes painted on the glass.

By experimenting with types of glass and careful consideration of the variations of hue and texture, Tiffany was able to rely on the glass medium itself to create the effects he sought. One of the most original features was the use of solid masses and lumps of glass pressed into moulds when hot, creating a great number of facets like cut stone. These have been described as having, when set in a window, "all the effects of the most brilliant gems, changing their shade of colour with every changing angle of vision."

The importance of leading is also obvious in Tiffany's stained-glass windows which are often composed of a multitude of tiny pieces, using the lead lines as an element of the design rather than treating them as annoying interruptions in the overall composition.

Tiffany reorganized his business in 1892, changing the name from Tiffany Glass Company to Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, with a separately managed ecclesiastical department responsible for church windows. He had become increasingly involved with ecclesiastical windows after taking as his second wife, in 1886, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. In 1900 the name was changed again to Tiffany Studios. By 1910, there were Tiffany windows installed in churches in forty states and several foreign countries, including Canada.

Sadly, Tiffany lived to see Art Nouveau both flourish and wither. Around 1915, the stark functionalism called 'modernism' began to replace the sensually elegant, flowing and natural forms of the style he did so much to create. His vast output became an object of public indifference and many of his great stained-glass windows were destroyed, dismantled and dispersed. In New York city alone, more than half the windows produced by Tiffany Studios have been destroyed. By 1927, the company had virtually ceased to exist, although the production of church windows continued until 1938, when the firm was finally liquidated. Tiffany died in 1933, a lonely man whose work, at the time, was completely disregarded.

The re-emergence of Art Nouveau began in the mid-1950's and brought a timely reappraisal of the work of this elegant American. His art is now being presented in museums and galleries around the world and is considered to be among the most beautiful creations of the Art Nouveau movement.

The windows in the present Erskine and American Church were originally installed by Tiffany Studios in 1902 in the American Presbyterian Church on Dorchester Street in Montreal. In 1934, this Church amalgamated with the Erskine Church which had been erected in 1894 on Sherbrooke Street West. In 1938, Percy Nobbs, an architect at McGill University, was chosen to plan extensive renovations to the building and the original Tiffany windows were moved at this time to the newly renovated church. They now comprise one of the largest collections of religious stained glass from the Tiffany Studios.


Peter Haworth, R.C.A. O.S.A. was born in Lancaster, England, on February 28, 1889. He studied at the Accrington School of Art and then, on scholarship, at the Manchester School of Art. In 1914 he enrolled at the Royal College of Art in London. He served in World War I from 1915-1918 and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1918, he returned to the Royal College of Art graduating with his A.R.C.A. He studied under Anning Bell, a noted designer of stained glass and was influenced by Burne-Jones and William Morris.

He came to Canada in 1923 and accepted a job as teacher at the Central Technical School in Toronto, becoming director of the art department in 1928. In 1939 he was appointed instructor in Design and Drawing at the University of Toronto.

He was accepted as a respected watercolour painter, but his major contribution seems to be in stained glass, in which he had begun working very early in his career. During the 1920's and 1930's he produced stained-glass windows for more than sixty churches and schools in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. The manufacture of his windows was always carried out by the firm of Pringle and London of Toronto, but always under his close supervision. He personally selected stained glass in England or the United States. Most of the glass for his major works came from Alesburg, England, famed for the depth of colour and rich texture of its product. Generally, the more texture in a piece of stained glass, the better it will reflect the light and Haworth selected each piece of glass for each given area of design.

In 1952, Melwyn Breem of the Toronto 'Saturday Night' described Haworth's studio as follows; "We found Mr. Haworth in his study surrounded by the tools and materials of his work - samples of stained glass, stacks of exquisite, jewel like and meticulously painted sketches, and huge 'cartoons' which are the blueprints for a finished window... – steps in the designs he has done for many churches in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa ... and elsewhere. ... (He and his assistant)... first make a ... sketch of the finished window. ... The sketch is then redrawn ... to actual scale as a 'cartoon’. The cartoon is then taken to the firm that does the actual glass making and assembling and, under Haworth's supervision, the glass sections in the design are keyed to show the colour and shape of the piece to be used. ... Templates are cut out and used as patterns for the glass. These are then cut with diamond cutters. After this comes the etching and painting of the detail. Then it is ready to be assembled and 'leaded'. The leading itself may be half an inch, a quarter of an inch or three-eighths of an inch thick, depending on the size and weight of the window. The leads are simply strips of the metal, flanged in the middle to separate adjacent pieces of glass, which are then cemented in. Then comes the actual installation of the window."

Haworth's designs for stained-glass windows have literally illuminated the lives of thousands of Canadians for more than half a century and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

In a letter to Haworth from J.H. Birks on October 11,1941 he says, "The lower ones (windows) to our Father and Mother are beyond criticism, and the Upper Seven Circles again I think are splendid, but there has been criticism of the lower panels being too bright. Do you think it would be wise to experiment with a dark glass outside to subdue this effect?"


Charles William Kelsey. Canadian, 20th Century. 1877-1975.

This artist is described in 'A Dictionary of Canadian Artists' as "an artist from Westmount, Quebec, who has designed a number of stained-glass windows. ... Kelsey also did a three panel memorial window for the St. George's Church, Dominion Square, Montreal, symbolizing the three Canadian Armed Services." 'Art and Architecture in Canada' notes unusual windows by C.W. Kelsey in Westmount Park United Church.


"TIFFANY GLASSWARE" by Norman Porter and Douglas Jackson.


"GLORIOUS VISIONS - PETER HAWORTH. Studies for Stained Glass Windows" Art Gallery of Windsor. An appreciation by Paul Duval.



Compiled by Elizabeth Coffey, 1995