Biographical / Historical
Frederick Wilson (1858-1932) was born in Dublin, Ireland to Charles and Elizabeth Wilson. He and his five siblings were raised in Liverpool and London, and though little is known about Wilson’s early artistic education, it is probable that he received some training from his father who was an artist. Why and how he became a stained glass designer is also unknown, but he lived and worked in England as an artist until he was 34. In 1891 he married Mary Gwladys Morgan and the following year they immigrated to the United States. The couple had three children: Gladys, Sylvia and Beatrice.
After arriving in America, Wilson worked briefly for Alfred Godwin and Company, a stained glass studio in Philadelphia, and in 1893 he began working for the prestigious glass designer Louis Comfort Tiffany at his studios in New York City. The ecclesiastical designs he created were successfully transformed into the opalescent stained glass windows favored by churches at the turn of the century. Out of the team of religious window designers employed by Tiffany, “Wilson emerged as the most gifted, prolific and long-serving.” He was appointed head of the ecclesiastical department at Tiffany Studios in 1899, and continued working for Tiffany until 1923 when he and his family decided to move to Los Angeles, CA. In California, Wilson worked for The Judson Studios, which was one of the most prominent stained glass studios on the West Coast. He remained there until his death in 1932.
The final windows Wilson worked on before his death were those for the Garrett Memorial Chapel, which is also known as the “Little Chapel on the Mount.” Paul and Evelyn Garrett built the chapel in 1931 near the family home in Bluff Point, NY in order to memorialize their son who had died from tuberculosis. The Garretts commissioned Wilson to design windows for the crypt, sanctuary and vestibule of the chapel and they hired Judson Studios to execute them. Eighteen windows were produced and while the sanctuary and vestibule windows depict scenes from Christ’s life, it was Evelyn Garrett’s wish that the crypt windows represent non-religious topics. Therefore, scenes from the works of poets—such as Alfred Tennyson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—were chosen by the Garretts for Wilson to portray.
The Judson Studios was founded in 1897 in downtown Los Angeles by William Lees Judson and his three sons. The company specializes in designing, creating and installing hand-crafted stained glass for both religious and secular uses. As of 2015, the Judson Studios is still in operation and is in its fifth generation of family ownership.
Duncan, A., Eidelberg, M., & Harris, N. (1989). "Masterworks of Louis Comfort Tiffany." New York: Abrams.
Wright, Diane C. “Frederick Wilson (1858-1932): An American stained-glass designer.” Master’s thesis, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution; and Parsons School of Design, 2005.