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Stained-glass artist and designer, whose nave windows for the new Coventry Cathedral shaped the direction of future commissions, Lawrence Lee, stained-glass artist, was born on September 18, 1909. He died on April 25, 2011, aged 101 Lawrence Lee was head of stained glass at the Royal College of Art for 20 years, and led the design team for the ten nave windows in the new Coventry Cathedral in the early 1950s, a project that showed the possibilities of truly modern stained glass, and resulted in new commissions far removed from what had traditionally been acceptable in ecclesiastical buildings. Lee's work is found in churches across Britain, in windows at Guildford and Southwark Cathedrals,and as far afield as New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Trinidad. He operated consciously in the tradition that can be traced to the great medieval cathedrals and their glorious stained-glass windows, taking on "apprentices" who worked in his studio before setting out on their own. His assistants remember him for his unfailing generosity and support; he in turn paid tribute to their contribution by adding their initials to his own signature at the bottom of most of his windows. Lee was fascinated by the possibilities for using glass in new ways that had been opened up by improvements in modern adhesive; and in all forms of glass, including thick slab glass that could be set in concrete. Lawrence Stanley Lee was born in 1909 in the Chelsea Hospital for Women and brought up in Weybridge, Surrey, where his father, William Henry Lee, a chauffeur and engineer, owned a garage near the newly opened Brooklands racetrack. From his mother, Rose, who was deeply religious, Lee gained the knowledge of biblical symbolism central to his work. He left school at 14, but his talent had been recognised by one of his teachers who secured him a place at Kingston School of Art. From there he won a scholarship in 1927 to the Royal College of Art (RCA), where he was taught - and greatly influenced - by Martin Travers, an architect by training and a designer of stained glass and church furnishings who had joined the RCA in 1925 to oversee work in stained glass. After graduating in 1930 Lee was invited to join Travers's studio as a stained-glass assistant; he also taught part-time at Bromley School of Art. Lee was attracted to the monastic life, and in 1938 spent a year at a Franciscan retreat in Dorset, only leaving to join the war effort. He served as an anti-aircraft gunner and fought in North Africa and Italy. At the end of the war he was transferred to the Army Educational Corps as an expert in artistic and cultural affairs in Italy. At one point he captured on canvas an eruption of Vesuvius. Some of his paintings are in the Imperial War Museum, others in the Ashmolean. On his demobilisation Lee was invited to join Travers' studio as chief assistant in the stained-glass department, for which war-damaged church windows provided a steady flow of work. On Travers' sudden death in 1948 Lee succeeded him as head of a new and independent department of stained glass at the RCA - a position he held until 1968. Travers' death also propelled Lee into establishing his own studio, and he inherited and completed many of Travers' commissions. Initially Lee set up a studio in Sutton, Surrey, and then in New Malden, eventually establishing his studio in Penshurst, Kent, in 1963. In 1950 a comprehensive exhibition of the work of RCA students in the galleries of the Royal Society of British Artists attracted a great deal of attention. A large room was set aside for the display of stained glass, and there the work of Lee and his students Keith New and Geoffrey Clarke caught the eye of the architect Basil Spence. The three were then awarded the prestigious commission to design windows for the nave of the new Coventry Cathedral, the earlier structure having been destroyed by bombs in 1940. The old mural studio that joined the RCA to the Victoria and Albert Museum was made available for Lee, Clarke and New to create ten 70ft windows based on "Man's progress from birth to death and from death to resurrection and transfiguration". Spence's concept for the windows was that the opposite pairs would represent a pattern of growth from birth to old age, culminating in heavenly glory nearest the altar - one side representing human, the other the divine. Lee was asked to mastermind the design of the windows, set at angles. Spence had orientated the new cathedral with the altar facing north to south, and it is a controversial feature of the design that the nave windows face away from the congregation and can only be seen fully from the altar. Lee designed three lights; Clarke and New three each and the final light was a collaboration. The project took six years: after the first four years, six of the giant windows were exhibited at the V&A. It was the first time that they had been seen complete, and they caused a sensation. Some of the windows were entirely abstract, some semi-abstract and others symbolic. For the rest of his career Lee designed windows that could not be pigeonholed as either "modern" or "traditional". Although many were entirely abstract, he went on to produce windows that were a fusion of figurative, symbolic and abstract principles in a style all his own, and which was flexible enough to encompass a wide variety of concepts and subjects. The best examples are at Abinger Common and Byfleet in Surrey; Belmont (Sutton) and Cuddington in Greater London; Matlock in Derbyshire; Gobowen in Shropshire; Sutton-in-Ely and Attleborough in East Anglia and Mears Ashby in Northamptonshire; and in a series made for the Royal Military Academy Chapel at Sandhurst. His largest commission after Coventry was for the Church of St Andrew and St Paul in Montreal: ten large clerestory windows with a common overall design, but each magnificent in its own right. At the other end of the scale, the Church of the Holy Cross at Binstead on the Isle of Wight has a striking pair of small west windows featuring a phoenix and a peacock, as well as a fluttering dove by the altar. His treatment of this symbol of the Holy Spirit is worth a study in itself, for doves occur in many of his windows, each different and each arising from his appreciation of bird anatomy and informed by a spirituality not fettered by conventional religiosity. Secular commissions were less frequent, but excellent examples are the windows he made for the Chemical Society in Burlington House in 1967, and for Montreal General Hospital. Throughout, he drew his inspiration from the great medieval glaziers and particularly from his English forerunners, such as John Thornton, of York Minster. He worked hard to ensure that the traditions of stained glass continued in the next generation. To this end he persuaded the Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, of which he was elected master in 1973, to introduce practising stained-glass artists into its ranks at affordable rates. Lee wrote three books. The first, Stained Glass (1967), was a paperback handbook for artists. The second, Stained Glass, An Illustrated Guide to the World of Stained Glass (1976), which he co-wrote with George Seddon and Francis Stephens, was illustrated with almost 500 colour photographs by Sonia Halliday and Laura Lushington. His third book was The Appreciation of Stained Glass (1977). Lee completed his last big church window in 1991 at St Martin's in Brasted, Kent. His final window, a memorial to his grandson Alex, who died in a car crash aged 17, is in Chew Valley School, Somerset, and was completed in 1994. Several former assistants attended his 100th birthday party in 2009. He is survived by two sons; his wife, Dorothy Tucker, whom he married in 1940, predeceased him. Posted 2 days ago. (_permalink_ (http://www.flickr.com/groups/contemporarystainedglass/discuss/72157626458840077/72157626619948678/) ) Barbara Krueger --