‘Heavenly Lights: The Untold Story of Stained Glass Artist Margaret Agnes Rope’ exhibition comes to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery this autumn.

Deer hi-res Shrewsbury Cathedral window detail med

A major new exhibition telling the untold story of one of the great female artists of the early twentieth century comes to Shrewsbury this autumn.

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 now largely forgotten here in the UK, and even in her home town of Shrewsbury.

Now an exhibition of her work will be staged at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery from 12 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.

‘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 now, 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 creating a special project, formed by a group of volunteer archivists, not only to re-research her life and works, but to mount a 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.

Stuart West, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for culture and leisure, said:

“Margaret Rope was one of the greatest stained-glass artists of the early twentieth century, and her works can be seen all over the world.

“Despite her obvious genius, her name is hardly remembered at all; and we hope this exhibition – the first dedicated solely to her work and times – will give her reputation the boost it deserves.

“The Rope family were prominent in Shrewsbury before the Second World War, and many local people may have knowledge, or even memories, of Doctor Rope and his wife and six children – of whom ‘Marga’ was one.

“So, as we prepare and build up to the exhibition, there will be a lot of research and archive-studies into her life and works.”

Anyone with any memories or information about Margaret Rope can email [email protected]