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Unusual as they must assuredly appear to most viewers accustomed to nineteenth- or early twentieth-century ecclesiastical or even domestic stained glass, the Maryhill panels continue thematically in some measure, if not at all stylistically, an old medieval tradition. Stained glass portrayals of men at work, representing the labors of the craft guilds that donated windows are commonly found in medieval cathedrals and churches — bakers, carpenters, clothmakers, fishermen, furriers, masons and stone-cutters, metal workers, miners, money changers, tanners, wheelwrights. Likewise the so-called “labors of the month” (sometimes representing women as well as men) — sowing, reaping, treading the grapes -- are a common theme of medieval stained glass. (Figs. 1-4)
Left: Figure 1. Gold Miners. Freiburg Cathedral, 1330. Middle left: Figure 2. Bakers' window. Chartres Cathedral. Middle right. Figure 3. Labors of the Months (July). Haymaking. 1450-1475. Right: Figure 4. Labors of the Months.. c.1480.
In addition, scenes of men at work continued to be the subject of prints in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, albeit no longer commissioned by the workers themselves. Take, for example, Jan van der Straet’s sixteenth-century engraving of a Sugar Refinery (Fig. 5) and Abraham Bosse’s seventeenth-century engraving, A Printer's Shop (Fig. 6). By the 40s, 50s, and 60s of the nineteenth century, modern work, including industrial work, had become a theme of several painters.
Left: Figure 7. William Bell Scott. In the nineteenth century the Northumbrians show the world what can be done with iron and coal . Right: Figure 8. Ford Madox Brown. Work. 1852-65. Oil on canvas. Click on both images for larger pictures and extended discussions of the paintings.
Probably best known of these paintings are now Work (1852-63) by Ford Madox Brown (with whom Adam’s teacher and employer Daniel Cottier had studied in London), and Iron and Coal (1860-61), by Edinburgh-born William Bell Scott, representing a still more contemporary scene of industrial labor125 and based on the artist’s own familiarity with the huge Robert Stephenson locomotive works in Newcastle-on-Tyne (Robert Stephenson was the son of the great railway engineer George Stephenson), where in 1844 Scott had been appointed head of the Government School of Design. (Figs. 7, 8)
But there were many others. In the 1780s, for instance, the Scottish painter David Allen had created a series of images of work in the lead-mining Lanarkshire village of Leadhills; in the 1850s the Sheffield painter and sculpture Godfrey Sykes produced paintings of foundries and rolling mills and sculptures of laboring men; similar workplaces were the subject of frequent illustrations in the London Illustrated News (Figs. 9, 10)
Left: Figure 9. Godfrey Sykes. Interior of an Iron Works. 1850. Middle: Figure 10. Sheffield Steel Manufactures. Hall of the Fork Grinders. Illustrated London News. March 10, 1886. Right: Figure 13. Paul Meyerheim. Lebensgeschichte einer Lokomotive [Biography of a Locomotive]. 1874.
In 1900, Adam could still have seen the huge mural of shipbuilding on the Clyde created by John Lavery for the Banqueting Hall of Glasgow’s grand City Chambers. (Fig. 11) In France, the prints “explicated” in M. Boucard’s Notions industrielles (Paris and Algiers: Hachette, 1848) offered illustrations of modern industrial labor (forges, paper works, soap works, glass works, spinning mills)
It is not surprising that being based in Glasgow, then one of the most dynamic centers of the new industrial world, Adam was commissioned more than once to take the modern worker as his principal subject matter. In addition to the Maryhill Burgh Hall panels of the late 1870s, he himself tells of having created “large decorative mosaic glass panels over the main entrance to the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, representing Saint Mungo, the city’s patron saint, blessing the Arts and the Industries of the Clyde District” with “life-size figures of craftsmen and artisans at work.” (See Appendix III) A few years later, in 1905-1908, as the impressive Clyde Navigation Trust Building on the Broomielaw in the center of the city was being extended, he created and installed in the boardroom a series of panels representing workers in shipbuilding, engineering, and overseas trade and commerce.
Left: Figure 11. Sir John Lavery. Shipbuilding on the Clyde. 1900. Right: Figure 12. Adolf Menzel. The Iron Rolling Mill. Illustrated London News. 1872-75. Nationalgalerie, Berlin.
in Germany, Adolf Menzel’s magnificent “The Iron Rolling Mill” (1872-1875), originally made for the banker Adolph von Liebermann, and Paul Meyerheim’s painting of a locomotive factory offer vivid and powerful images of labor in rapidly industrializing Germany; and in the United States, Thomas Anschutz depicted steel workers on a break from a mill with belching chimney stacks.126 (Figs. 12-13)
In their various ways -- whether representing conditions in which the individual is overwhelmed by industry, or like Adam’s Burgh Hall panels, representing the individual worker in control of the new forms of labor -- these drawings, paintings, and glass panels reflect a historical situation in which, with the vast expansion of industry in nineteenth-century Britain and Europe and a rising population of factory workers, work, and no longer only traditional kinds of work, had become a topic much reflected on and discussed by leading writers and thinkers. A substitute and a solace in many cases for loss of religious faith among the educated, according to one historian, work “became an end in itself, a virtue in its own right. [. . .] The glorification of work as a supreme virtue was the commonest theme of the prophets of earnestness” -- among them Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, together with Thomas Arnold, Charles Kingsley and John Ruskin. 127 Hence perhaps the taste for representations of the Holy Family as a working family by John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt (Figs. 15 and 15b).
Left: Figure 15. John Everett Millais. Christ in the House of His Parents. 1849-50. Right: Figure 15b. William Holman Hunt. The Shadow of Death. 1873.
One of the watchwords of Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement, as has been pointed out, was “the meaningfully hyphenated and equated ‘art-work,’” and Morris liked not to differentiate between the artist and the craftsman. 128
The key preacher of the gospel of the dignity of labor (in contrast to the base idleness of the rich and titled) was the Calvinist-raised Scot, Thomas Carlyle, with whose immensely popular and influential writings Adam, as a fellow-countryman, can hardly not have been acquainted. “The latest Gospel in this world,” Carlyle had announced in Past and Present (1843), “is, Know thy work and do it. [. . .] A man perfects himself by working. [. . .] Blessed is he who has found his work,” for “all true work is sacred.” 129
The arms of Govan, the great shipbuilding center in Glasgow’s southwest and an independent Burgh from 1864 until 1912, give graphic expression to the nineteenth-century gospel of work, representing as they do the two figures of an industrious middle-class entrepreneur (or perhaps, as Ian Mitchell suggested, a worker who had moved up the ladder to a more highly paid job) and a sturdy working man on either side of the burgh motto, Nihil sine Labore. A somewhat similar theme, albeit bosses and workers seem in a less collaborative and more confrontational relationship, represented in Henry Stacy Marks’ painting “Capital and Labour” of 1874. (Figs. 16, 17)
To be sure, Morris, the self-proclaimed Socialist, vehemently condemned what labor had become in “the darkest period in the history of labour in England” and deplored the reduction of the worker to the condition of being “only part of a machine, with little more than his weariness at the end of his day’s work to show him that he had worked at all in the day.” “The workmen,” Morris held, “should own those things that is [sic] the means of labour collectively, and should regulate labour in their own interests.”130 Carlyle had already been critical of the “Mammonism” of modern industrial work. Only when freed from its “bondage to Mammon,” he had proclaimed in Past and Present, would the “rational soul” of work be awakened.131 The early anarchist Mikhail Bakunin considered work “the foundation of human dignity and morality. For it was only by free and intelligent labor that man, overcoming his bestiality, attained his humanity and sense of justice, changed his environment, and created the civilized world.” Unfortunately, “the economic and social division of labor has disastrous consequences for members of the privileged classes, the masses of the people, and for the prosperity, as well as the moral and intellectual development, of society as a whole,” but the prevailing division of labor, like Carlyle’s Mammonism, was said to be a correctable accessory, and did not affect the essential value of work.132
Even on the extreme left, Marx and Engels (who wrote a very favorable review of Carlyle’s Past and Present) 133 133saw in work “the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself,” enabling him to distinguish himself from the animals, in the words of Engels in his unfinished The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man (written in 1876). 134 No less than for Carlyle, work was thus, in the view of Bakunin, Marx and Engels, essential to our humanity: the aim of socialism was by no means to demean it or do away with it but to have those who perform it also regulate it.
Left: Figure 16. Govan Burgh arms. Right: Figure 17. Henry Stacy Marks. Capital and labour. 1874 [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Adam’s portrayals of working men -- and women -- in the Maryhill panels communicate vividly the prevailing view of work as essentially human and uplifting while conveying virtually nothing of the critical strain in the writings of Morris or Engels or even Carlyle. On the contrary, the panels ignore the uglier, “Mammonist” aspect of modern industrial work. As one scholar has put it, whatever the critical angle in the arguments of Morris and his associates or, earlier still, in Carlyle, “the Puritan doctrine of work would never have been stressed so much,” did it not “also serve the cause of social order and lessen the threat of revolution.” 135 At the same time, it is appropriate to note that, in the view of some writers, the cult of work was in fact shared by the workers themselves. Carried over from pre-industrial times, according to the author of a 2009 book on Glasgow, “traditional pride in their work […] is a consistent thread running through industrial workers’ oral memories and autobiographies, as is the stress men placed upon themselves ‘never being idle.’ [. . .] Work was something more than a job.” The same author goes on to recall that “in his memoirs Glasgow-born M.P. David Kirkwood, who rose from apprentice engineer to Independent Labour Party leader and Labour M.P., noted of Clyde shipbuilding workers: ‘These men – the finest, the most expert craftsmen in the world – had lived their lives in their work. Their joy as well as their livelihood lay in converting the vast masses of Nature’s gifts into works of art, accurate to a two-thousandth part of an inch.’” 136 By representing the modern industrial worker realistically, but with the dignity of the traditional craftsman, Adam’s panels may thus have reflected not only a desire on the part of the commercial and industrial entrepreneurs most likely to have been behind their commissioning to present their businesses in a positive light but the workers’ own view of themselves and their labor. Certainly, the portrayal of industrial labor in stained glass, a medium generally associated with churches and religion, even at a time of its growing popularity as a decorative art in secular contexts, cannot but have underlined the “sacredness” of labor and moderated or eliminated any association of it with the “Mammonist” exploitation deplored by Carlyle and Morris, with social injustice and unrest, or with workers’ movements and strikes. Employers and employees alike may well have responded favorably to the respectful portrayal of the workers in all the Maryhill panels as dignified, seriously engaged in their work, and concentrating all their attention on it, to the point that in several panels their backs are turned to the viewer while they focus on “doing their work.”
As has been pointed out by the few scholars who have concerned themselves with Adam’s panels at Maryhill Burgh Halls, notably by Ian Mitchell, the industrial equipment represented in them had clearly been carefully studied by Adam and is rendered with meticulous accuracy. Likewise the workers themselves are presented in their modern working clothes, without the embellishment of quasi-medieval or Biblical costume -- as in Adam’s own windows for the Trades Hall in Aberdeen or in some of the fine, but more conventional stained glass representations of “Commerce” executed by the Adam studio for the Clyde Navigation Trust Building two decades later. (See Part II, Ch. 1, Fig. 34 and http://www.seventradesofaberdeen.co.uk/stained-glass-windows/)
As already suggested, however, the representation of working people and machinery in the panels, while conveying an impression of sober realism and accuracy, offers an idealized picture of modern industrial labor. Thanks to the clean, classical lines of the machinery with which the workers share the stage, the viewer never has the impression of the worker as dominated by an overpowering, inhuman, mechanical force, even when he is seen from behind and the machinery comes close to displacing him as the hero of the scene. On the contrary, the impression created by Adam’s panels, for all their realism, is one of harmony and order. For that reason, the images representing modern industrial processes do not clash with those that continue to evoke traditional crafts -- The Blacksmiths The Bricklayer, or The Wheelwrights. Most significantly perhaps, the factory floor as such, with its armies of workers overwhelmed by machinery is strikingly absent from Adam’s panels. While this may well reflect the prevalence in Maryhill of smaller workshops, as distinct from the large factories established in the neighboring district of Springburn, the viewer cannot but be struck by the complete absence of the dirt and grime that undoubtedly accompanied many of the forms of labor represented and that, in contrast, are clearly visible in Godfrey Sykes’ images of rolling mills and iron foundries of the 1850s or an Illustrated London News illustration of a Sheffield workshop in the mid-60s (Figs. 9, 10) or the print of a forge in the French Notices industrielles of 1848. As William H. Sewell Jr. noted of the last of these, “the space is filled with a jumble of workmen, machines, tools, steam, and bits of debris.”137
Instead, the fine, balanced, uncluttered, classical composition of each panel, the simple color patterns, and the carefully arranged poses of the individual workers, which seem almost fixed and eternal even when the men (and women) are visibly engaged in strenuous and effectively rendered physical activity, ensure that the figures in Adam’s panels appear to the viewer as noble, classical, and iconic – modest heroes of the modern industrial and industrious age, as Carlyle or William Morris would have liked them to be. Even their working clothes, albeit occasionally patched, are impeccably clean. The contrast is striking with the bent-over or beer-quaffing navvies in Ford Madox Brown’s Work or the crowd of hammer-wielding workmen in William Bell Scott’s Iron and Coal or the frantically active workers in Menzel’s iron-rolling mill and in the already mentioned print of a forge from the French Notices industrielles. Ian Mitchell’s suggestion (see Appendix I) that the panels may have been conceived as a kind of self-promoting advertisement by local factory owners is by no means inconsistent with such an idealized portrayal of the workers and the work in which they are engaged. We shall return to this feature of the panels.
Most of the records concerning the commissioning of the Maryhill panels have unfortunately been lost or destroyed. (Sadly, as noted in Part I, a sign of the relatively low general ranking of stained glass among works of art.) It is reasonable to speculate, however, that the Provost and Baillies of the then independent burgh of Maryhill, who no doubt commissioned the panels, were either themselves the owners of local factories or workshops or were acting on behalf of the latter in arranging for an impressive portrayal of their burgh and its multiple activities. The building itself, after all, is said to have been originally conceived in 1870 as “a meeting place to enable tradesmen and merchants to come together.”138 As Ian Mitchell has demonstrated,139 the panels represent the principal forms of labor in the quite diversified economy of the district: calico-dying, saw-milling, paper manufacture, iron-founding, railways and engineering, boatbuilding and canal work. (The opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal and of the Glasgow, Dumbarton and Helensburgh Railway had ensured a key role for Maryhill in the development of industry and transportation in Central Scotland). Even education -- an essential feature, especially in Scotland, of the preparation of the young for a life of work and piety -- was represented, as was the military, which in another way guaranteed the peace and order of a working community. (Maryhill Barracks, opened in 1872 and enlarged in 1876 -- allegedly in response to Glasgow Corporation’s repeated petitioning “for more military protection” from the danger of “riot and tumult” in the growing industrial city -- was designed to accommodate an infantry regiment, a squadron of cavalry and a battery of field artillery.)140 The teacher and the soldier thus took their place in the celebration of the burgh’s workers that the Maryhill baillies commissioned from Adam for their new Burgh Halls. Whatever the baillies’ intentions in commissioning the panels, the work produced by Stephen Adam presents a dignified and optimistic view of a modern mid-Victorian working-class community.
In this web version some of the original endnotes have been converted to in-text page citations, so the notes below do not form a complete sequence.
125 One of eight paintings illustrative of the history of Northumberland (the first depicts the building of Hadrian’s Wall) commissioned c. 1856 by Sir William and Lady Pauline Trevelyan for their handsome eighteenth-century Palladian-style residence, Wallington Hall, now a property of the National Trust. [For the Trevelyans, Wallington Hall, and Scott’s paintings, see Jacqueline Banerjee's illustrated discussion.]
126 For a richly illustrated overview of artists’ illustrations of labor in the 19th century, see Klaus Türk, Bilder der Arbeit: eine ikonografische Anthologie (Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag, 2000), chapters 10 and 11 (pp. 155-241) and the same author’s Mensch und Arbeit: 400 Jahre Geschichte der Arbeit in der bildenden Kunst (Milwaukee: Minnesota School of Engineering Press, 2003).
127 Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind 1830-1870 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), pp. 242-43. In 1856, as members of a group calling themselves “The Brotherhood,” Morris and Burne-Jones launched an Oxford and Cambridge Magazine in the pages of which an article entitled “The Work of Young Men” presented the idea that “to do a certain work, each man was born. It is the noble duty of each man, each youth, to learn his particular work.” (Cit. Mary Cowling, Victorian Figurative Painting [London: Andreas Papadakis, 2000], p. 173)
128 Timothy Hilton, The Pre-Raphaelites (London: Thames and Hudson, 1970), pp. 158-59.
129 Carlyle, Past and Present (London: Chapman and Hall, 1843), Book III, ch. XI (“Labour”), pp. 264, 271. As it happens, Carlyle was one of the figures honored -- along with Buchanan, Knox, and Erasmus -- in two two-light memorial windows designed by the Adam studio for Claremont Street Trinity Congregational Church in Glasgow in 1907.
130 Morris, Lecture on “Art and Labour,” 1886, in Eugene D. Lemire, The unpublished lectures of William Morris (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1969), pp. 94-118, on pp. 112-13, 116.
131. “Industrial work, still under bondage to Mammon, the rational soul of it not yet awakened, is a tragic spectacle. Men in the rapidest motion and self-motion; restless, with convulsive energy, as if driven by Galvanism, as if possessed by a Devil; tearing aside mountains, -- to no purpose, for Mammonism is always Midas-eared! This is sad, on the face of it. Yet courage: the beneficent Destinies, kind in their sternness, are apprising us that this cannot continue. Labour is not a devil, even while encased in Mammonism; Labour is ever an imprisoned god, writhing unconsciously or consciously to escape out of Mammonism!” (Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, Book III, ch. xii, ed. cit., p. 278)
134 “What do we find [. . .] as the characteristic difference between the troupe of monkeys and human society? Labour” (“The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man,” Marxists.org) and German original: Anteil der Arbeit an der Menschwerdung des Affen (http://www.mlwerke.de/me/me20/me20_444.htm). It deserves to be noted, however, that in 1880, from the point of view of a different Left, Paul Lafargue (Marx’s son-in-law) was severely critical of the prevailing cult of work and its integration into the anti-capitalist ideology of Marx and Engels: “A strange madness has taken possession of the working classes of those nations in which Capitalistic Civilization dominates. This madness is the primary cause of the individual and collective sufferings which have been for the past two centuries endured by sad humanity. This madness is the love of work, the furious desire for labour, carried even to the extent of exhausting the vital forces of the individual and his offspring. Instead of protesting against this aberration, priests, economists and moralists have doubly sanctified labour..[ . . .] When, in civilized Europe, anyone wishes to find a trace of the primitive beauty of man, it is necessary to look among those nations in which economic prejudices have not yet eradicated hatred of work. Spain, which to be sure is now degenerating, is still able to boast of possessing fewer manufactories than we have prisons and barracks. But the artist rejoices as he admires the hardy Andalusian, brown as the chestnut, upright and flexible as a steel rod. [. . . ] For the Spaniard in whose country the primitive animal has not wasted into the capitalist, work is the worst kind of slavery.[. . .] And yet the proletariat, the great class that includes all the producers of the civilized world, the class that in emancipating itself will emancipate all humanity from servile work, and will convert the human animal into a free being; the proletariat, false to its instincts,, unmindful of its historic mission, has allowed itself to be corrupted by the dogma of work. Swift and terrible has been its punishment. All individual and social misery is born of the passion for work.” (Paul Lafargue, The Right to Leisure [sometimes translated as The Right to be Lazy], trans. James Blackwell [Glasgow: Labour Literature Society, 1893], pp. 2, 4, 5; orig. French, Le Droit à la paresse, 1880)
135 Houghton, p. 246. Paul Lafargue (see note 134 above) observed that the notion of work as a means of keeping the propertyless poor in their place and suppressing revolutionary ideas and activities had already been presented explicitly in “un écrit anonyme intitulé: An Essay on Trade and Commerce” (i.e.An Essay on Trade and Commerce…by the author of Considerations on Taxes, etc. [London: S. Hooper, 1870], pp. 57-58).
136 Piers Dudgeon, Our Glasgow: Memories of Life in Disappearing Britain (London: Headline, 2009), pp. 13-14. It is only fair to point out that Dudgeon also vividly illustrates the often horrific and degrading conditions which even the much admired shipyard workers had to endure.
137 William H. Sewell, Jr. “Visions of Labor: Illustrations of the Mechanical Arts before, in, and after Diderot’s Encyclopédie,” in Steven Lawrence Kaplan and Cynthia J. Koepp, eds., Work in France: Representations, Meaning, Organization, and Practice (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 258-86, on p. 280.
Created 9 June 2016