Saturday, 14 August 2010

Passing of Stephen Bélanger-Taylor, window maker

I have just learned with sadness of the death in July 2009 of Stephen Bélanger-Taylor. I visited Stephen and Denise in their studio set against the foothills of the Southern Alps west of Geraldine in 2007. I went to see Denise's blown glass work, but was delighted to learn of Stephen's work with stained glass, his pride in his energy efficient kiln design, and to visit his then recently opened window at Woodbury.
Stephen Bélanger-Taylor held a BA from the Royal College of Art, London. He was an Associate of the Royal College of Arts, and Fellow of the Master Glass Painters in England. Stephen Taylor was born in South-East London in June 1940 during the blitz and the Battle of Britain. The repair, restoration or replacement of windows in bombed-out churches and cathedrals throughout Europe was to become a significant part of Stephen's life as a stained glass designer. It is said that Stephen would refer ironically to Adolf Hitler as the 'patron saint of stained glass'.
At 15 Stephen won a year’s scholarship at the Wimbledon School of Art where he was introduced to stained glass, and where he learned the skill of its restoration. He then won a place at the School of Stained Glass at the Royal College of Art, London. His studies took him to Paris and all over France where he learned the historic glass techniques of the early Flemish Glass Masters in order to replicate 12th to 14th century glass and pigments. On completion of his studies, he lectured at the Royal College of Art. In 1968, after receiving a stained glass commission at St James Cathedral in Toronto, he moved to Canada. He later lectured at Toronto University, Humber College and Georgian College in Ontario where he met his wife, Denise Bélanger.
Some of Stephen's most notable works in Canada are windows in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, St Luke's Thornhill, St Michael's and All Angels Etobicoke and Picton Town Hall.
During their time in Canada, Stephen and Denise set up a joint glassworks studio near Picton by Lake Ontario in Canada. After an initial visit to New Zealand in 1985, Denise and Stephen made a number of visits here and finally migrated in 1995, and established their home and studio outside Geraldine.
In his glass art in New Zealand, Stephen worked closely with artist Beverley Shore-Bennett of Wellington. They had a long and fruitful creative partnership, producing numerous windows in many parts of the country. Some examples of their collaboration I know of are in the Anglican Cathedral in Napier, in Holy Trinity Church, Devonport, the Old Girls Chapel at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, St Matthew in the City in Auckland and the Lady Chapel windows in the Cathedral of St Paul in Wellington. Stephen designed and made the Nurses' Memorial Window in the Nurses' Memorial Chapel in Christchurch. In 2007 Stephen created what he believed to be one of his finest works, at St Thomas’ Church, Woodbury, not far from where he and Denise lived (shown above and his signature at left).
Stephen's substantial body of work is an enduring legacy of inspirational art.