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Featured Windows, December 2006

The Arts and Crafts Windows of St. Dunstan's Chapel, Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Building: Christ Church Cranbrook

City: Bloomfield Hills

State: Michigan

Christ Church Cranbrook is part of the Cranbrook Educational Community located on a 319-acre campus in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Founded by Detroit newspaper publisher George Gough Booth and his wife Ellen Scripps Booth in the early 1900s, the campus also includes the Cranbrook Art Academy, Cranbrook Art Museum, Cranbrook House and Gardens, Cranbrook Institute of Science, Cranbrook Schools and Cranbrook Archives. Many of the buildings were designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and the grounds hold a large collection of outdoor sculpture by Swedish sculptor Carl Milles. The Cranbrook campus was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

The Episcopal parish at Cranbrook was organized in the early 1920s under the leadership of George Booth, who gave the land and funds for the construction of Christ Church. Booth, who was at the head of the Arts and Crafts revival in Detroit, viewed the church as a place where the arts and crafts could enhance the religious experience. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869-1924), a former partner of architect Ralph Adams Cram, was chosen as the architect but died before negotiations were completed. His successor firm of Bertram G. Goodhue Associates planned the building, with Oscar H. Murray as the chief designer. Applying the principle of collaboration used by medieval craftsmen and architects and advocated by the Arts and Crafts revival, master artists and craftsmen worked together with the architects to create a unified decorative scheme throughout the Gothic Revival building, which was completed and consecrated in 1928.

The list of artists whose work is at Christ Church Cranbrook includes painters, sculptors, muralists, fresco painters, woodcarvers, stonemasons, silversmiths, ironsmiths, tapestry designers and weavers, ceramists, and several artists and studios that created its windows. Above the west entrance, a great window dedicated to Womankind was designed by James H. Hogan (1883-1941) and fabricated by James Powell and Son of London. A large chancel window at the east end of the building is the work of Nicola d'Ascenzo (1868-1954) of Philadelphia. Grisaille windows in the nave walls were created by G. Owen Bonawit (1891-1971) of New York City. Other stained glass artists represented at the church include J. Gordon Guthrie (1874-1961) of New York City, R. Toland Wright (1887-1934) of Cleveland and Harry Wright Goodhue (1905-1931) of Boston, the nephew of architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Additional stained glass at Christ Church Cranbrook includes a window from the cathedral at Amiens, France, and two windows that have recently been identified as the work of A. Kay Herbert of Detroit.

Harry Wright Goodhue created two "Arts and Crafts" windows in 1927 for St. Dunstan's Chapel, which is dedicated to "all who labor with their hands." Dunstan (ca. 921-988), born at Glastonbury, England, was a monk who became the Archbishop of Canterbury and a close advisor to the king. Because of his reputation as a skilled goldsmith and silversmith, he is viewed as the patron saint of artists and craftsmen, especially jewelers and goldsmiths. One of the chapel windows shows St. Dunstan in the center panel, holding his smith's tongs, which, according to tradition, he used to pinch the nose of the Devil, who tempted him while he worked at his forge. The left panel depicts Old Testament jeweler Bezaleel, who made the high priest's breastplate and other ceremonial furnishings for the tabernacle used by the Jews in the wilderness in the Book of Exodus (Ex. 31:2; 35:30; 36-38).

Below Bezaleel is a lively portrait of German-American woodcarver John Kirchmayer (1860-1930), whose handsome carved doors and reredos grace the church. The right panel depicts Italian monk and painter Fra Angelico (1387-1455). Below that is a portrait of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (who was to have been the church architect), memorialized by his nephew Wright as the archetypal architect.

The other window in the chapel depicts Jesus in the center panel, holding three nails and a hammer, symbols of his crucifixion.

The left panel shows his father, Joseph the carpenter, using his saw. Below Joseph is a portrait of St. Crispin, third-century shoemaker and evangelizing preacher of Soissons, France, working at his cobbler's bench. Crispin, who was martyred by beheading ca. 286, is the patron of cobblers and leather workers.

Below the figure of Jesus is a portrait of King David, the psalmist, with his harp.

The right panel portrays Noah, Old Testament shipwright, building his ark to prepare for the coming flood, as recorded in the Book of Genesis (Gen. 6-8). Below Noah is a portrait of Tubal-Cain, described as "an instructor of every artifice in brass and iron" (Gen. 4:22) and regarded as the first metalsmith and patron of all workers in metal. In addition to these two windows in St. Dunstan's Chapel, Wright Goodhue created windows depicting the archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael for the adjoining Chapel of the Resurrection.

Harry Wright Goodhue was born in 1905 at Cambridge, MA, the eldest son of Boston stained glass artist Harry Eldredge Goodhue (1873-1918) and Mary Louise Wright Goodhue. He was called by his middle name of Wright to distinguish him from his father. Having shown exceptional artistic ability, young Wright received his early training in his father's Boston studio and in children's art classes at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. After closing his own studio in 1916, Wright's father joined the Boston studio of Vaughan & O'Neill & Co., but he died in 1918, when Wright was 13. As a means of supporting her three young sons, Mary Louise Goodhue oversaw the completion of her husband's unfinished commissions and the creation of new windows, based on his designs and fabricated by Vaughan & O'Neill. In 1921, just before his sixteenth birthday, Wright left school to work as an office boy in a Boston brokerage firm. This was followed by his employment as a draftsman in the architectural firm of Allen & Collens, where he designed his first stained glass windows, including a chancel window for a church designed by his uncle Bertram G. Goodhue. After he received another major commission in 1924, Wright and his mother opened their own Boston studio where he designed and fabricated all the windows for the new Second Universalist Church in Boston. His later commissions included windows for churches by well-known architects such as Ralph Adams Cram, Bertram G. Goodhue (before his death in 1924), Allen & Collens, and Pittsburgh's William P. Hutchins. In 1927 some of Wright's window designs were shown at the Tricentennial Exhibition of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts. (His Arts and Crafts windows for St. Dunstan's Chapel were created during this time.) Well aware of his interrupted education, Wright studied for two years at Harvard University, where he wrote a thesis on aesthetics. In 1930 he married writer Cornelia Evans and they lived at Greenwich Village, NY. Unfortunately, Goodhue's brilliant career as a stained glass artist was cut short by his untimely death in 1931 at the age of 26.

Wright Goodhue's windows for St. Dunstan's Chapel, like all of the arts represented at Christ Church Cranbrook, reflect the rich legacy of the early 20th-century Arts and Crafts revival in Michigan. A new focus on Michigan's traditional crafts in the 21st century is now underway through "CraftWORKS! Michigan," a project developed by the state's Office of Cultural Economic Development in the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, working in partnership with Michigan State University Museum. CraftWORKS! Michigan is intended to stimulate the growth of creative enterprises and sustainable regional cultural economic development by coordinating and promoting the state's craft industry and outstanding craft artisans through related tourism destinations.

Christ Church Cranbrook was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Shirley Dow Marthey of Bloomfield Hills, MI. Photos by J. William Gorski and Betty MacDowell.

Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 1994.0158)

Text by Betty MacDowell, Michigan Stained Glass Census, December , 2006.