Residential Stained Glass Windows

The historic 1916 Pavilion at the end of Navy Pier in Chicago.

While on a recent trip to Chicago, it was a treat to happen upon The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows on Navy Pier, which stretches out into Lake Michigan.

The Smith Museum is a permanent display of 150 stained glass windows housed in an 800-ft.-long series of galleries along the lower level terraces of Festival Hall that connects the Pavilion to the land end of the Pier.

The Museum opened in February 2000, and is the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to stained glass windows, which include both residential and religious windows which cover a broad overview of styles as well, ranging from Victorian and Arts & Crafts, to Prairie-style windows by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Works by famous stained glass artists such as Tiffany and La Farge are included, and displayed in such a way that you can inspect at close quarters the inventive techniques that were used to enhance the designs in stained glass.

Some of the windows by Tiffany show the use of raised lead cames to bring parts of the design closer to the viewer, giving a greater depth to the window. Other Tiffany windows demonstrate the use of ‘plating’, which is the name of the technique of using several sheets of glass in layers, again adding to the depth of the design. One innovative display shows the different effects of different lighting, which makes figures ‘appear’ and ‘disappear’ in the painting, depending on whether sunlight was shining through the window.

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass is a magnificent collection and well worth a visit to the Navy Pier in Chicago. And admission is free!

One of the galleries at the Smith Museum at Navy Pier. The galleries include both dark galleries and sunlit galleries overlooking the public promenade.

For more information on the Smith Museum of Stained Glass click here:

A selection of images from the Smith Museum are shown below:

An amazing triptich window, composed of fragments of glass in a mosaic technique. See detail below.

No leading is used in the mosaic technique of stained glass. Instead, fragments of glass are sandwiched between two sheets of clear glass, and either imbedded with a type of mastic or mortar, or – in other examples not shown – simply placed tightly together between sheets of glass and mounted in a window.

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