Tait, Katharine Lamb, 1895-1981
- Existence: 1895 (date of birth) - 1981 (date of death) - 1981
Katharine Lamb Tait was born on June 3, 1895 in Alpine, New Jersey. Her father, Charles Rollinson Lamb, was an architect, designer, second president of J.& R. Lamb Studios, and a president of the Stained Glass Association of America. Her mother, Ella Condie Lamb, was an accomplished artist in multiple media.
In 1912, Tait graduated from the Quaker School Friends Seminary High School in New York City. She then studied at the Art Students League of New York and studied design at Columbia College, the National Academy of Design, and the Cooper Union Art School, where from 1922 through 1926 she also taught design.
In the early 1920s Tait spent a summer studying painting at Académie Colarossi in Paris. She also traveled to England and Italy. Her visits to the grand cathedrals of Europe, where she saw medieval stained glass for the first time, left a lasting impression on her and played a pivotal role in her career choice. She was captivated by stained glass, and upon her return home she began creating windows for J.& R. Lamb Studios in New York. Her work was also influenced by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Art Nouveau style, and George deRis of J.& R. Lamb Studio. Tait wove these diverse influences into her own distinct style. . Tait joined J & R. Lamb Studios as a designer in 1921, designing stained glass windows, mosaics, and other ecclesiastical art, such as brass altar crosses, candlesticks, stone lettering, and woodwork for choir stalls and pulpits. Tait’s father, who was president of Lamb Studios during this time, had an influential role in her life; she described him as her “best teacher”.
Tait married businessman Trevor S. Tait in November 1925. They had four children — daughter Barrie and sons Robin, Colin and Kevin — and she withdrew from full-time work to devote more time to raising her family. She continued to design whenever she could, however, working on sketches for windows from home. In 1932 she undertook a design for the Tuskegee Institute Chapel in Alabama known as the “Singing Window.” The Singing Window combined the words of eleven different African American spirituals with Biblical imagery. She served as head designer of Lamb Studios from 1936 (returning to more regular work in 1937) through 1979, following in the footsteps of her Uncle Frederick Stymetz Lamb who previously served as head designer.
In 1945 Lamb Studios won a prestigious commission for the windows of the Protestant and Catholic Chapels at the United States Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune near Jacksonville, North Carolina. This project occupied Tait for two years. It was her largest single commission and a significant artistic achievement. The commission depicts strong archangels, militant saints, and battles. Only after securing the commission did Lamb Studios reveal that a woman was behind the designs.
Tait completed other major commissions throughout the United States. These included mosaics for The Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, New York City; all the windows at The Old Mariners Church, Detroit, Michigan; all the chapel windows of the Presbyterian Church, Tenafly, New Jersey; the mosaic chancel cross at the Canaan Baptist Church, Washington, DC.; and 24 windows at The All Saints Episcopal Church, Birmingham, Alabama. In addition, she was responsible for designing all the windows at The Church of the Advent, Kenmore, New York; all the nave windows at the First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia; a stained glass memorial window at The Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey; and a mosaic chancel cross at The first Presbyterian Church, Watertown, New York.
Throughout her career, Tait designed more than 1,000 commissions. Tait died in 1981.
David Adams, “The Last Stained Glass Lamb: Katharine Lamb Tait 1895-1981,” Stained Glass Quarterly of the Stained Glass Association of America” 77, no. 1 (Spring 1982).
David Adams and Donald Samick, “The J. and R. Lamb Studios: The Second 75 Years: 1932-2007,” Stained Glass Quarterly of the Stained Glass Association of America 102, no.3 (Fall 2007).
Barrie Tait Collins, “The Archangels of Lejeune," Stained Glass Quarterly of the Stained Glass Association of America 103, no. 3 (Fall 2008).
Barrie Tait Collins, “Frederick Stymetz Lamb," 1995. Katharine Lamb Tait Papers.
Barrie Tait Collins, “Katharine Lamb Tait: A Brief Biography,” 2004. Katharine Lamb Tait Papers, 1896-2010. MS 0153. Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass. Corning, New York.
“Katharine Lamb Tait, Designed Stained Glass," The New York Times, Katharine Lamb Tait Papers.
This biographical note is excerpted from Nivedita Chatterjee, "Historical Perspectives: Katharine Lamb Tait, 1895-1981," Glass Art 28, no. 1 (Jan/Feb 2013).
Found in 1 Collection or Record:
Katharine Lamb Tait Papers
These papers of a stained glass artist are divided into two series:
(1) Business Records, 1903-2004
(2) Personal Papers and Artifacts, 1896-2010