Life and works of Shrewsbury-born stained glass artist to be celebrated in new exhibition
An artist from Shrewsbury whose stained glass windows can be seen in churches around the world is to be celebrated this autumn in a major new exhibition of her work at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.
Margaret Agnes Rope, born in 1882, produced stained-glass that can be found in churches and cathedrals on three continents, and which is now also collected by American museums – but she is largely forgotten here in the UK, and even in her home town.
Now ‘Heavenly Lights’, an exhibition that tells her untold story will be staged in Shrewsbury from 12th September 2016 to 15th January 2017.
Examples of Margaret Rope’s work can be seen in Shrewsbury (at the town’s Cathedral and at St Mary’s Church) and in churches across the UK, from Suffolk to South Wales to Scotland. Her stained glass windows can also be seen at churches in Australia, South Africa and Rome – and in museums in Los Angeles and New York.
‘Marga’, as she was called, was an instinctive rebel – known for smoking cheroot cigars, riding a motorbike and wearing her hair short – in an era when women were largely suppressed. Without backing from a patron, rich family or husband, she made her own way in her career, one of a new generation of artists as much at home in a workshop as in a drawing-studio.
Her work – influenced by the ‘Later Arts & Crafts’ style – soon became well-known for its jewelled dazzling colours, its personal stamp, its startling modernism, and its sense of spiritual vibrancy.
Yet, within barely a decade of her first success, she chose to become a Catholic nun, moving into an ‘enclosed’ convent. However, even then, shut away from the world, she continued to work, in a small studio provided by the other nuns.
An intensely private person, she left barely any records behind her, and even asked that some of her remaining works be destroyed after her death. Art historians, perhaps frustrated by this lack of information, have since marginalised her achievements.
Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery has sought to right this wrong by mounting this major exhibition bringing together works and artefacts from all over the country. Many of these works have never been seen in public before.
A state of the art projection system will screen giant images of her finest stained-glass windows.
Meanwhile, across her home-town, complementary activities will run alongside the exhibition – from lectures, walks and concerts to the publications of new books about her life and times. See below for talks programme.
Saturday 17th November – ‘David Evans of Shrewsbury and the Revival of Gothic Stained Glass’, a talk by art historian Martin Crampin (University of Aberystwyth), 3.30pm, Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. Presented by The Friends of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. Tickets for non-members cost £3, available from the Museum & Art Gallery front desk.
January 2017 (date to be confirmed) – ‘Windows into Heaven: Margaret Rope’s Stained Glass’, a talk by art historian Dr Claire FitzGerald (University of Warwick) at University Centre, Shrewsbury. More details to follow.
The exhibition is kindly supported by the LD Rope Charitable Trust and The friends of Shrewsbury Museum.