In the fall of 2013, the Rakow Library acquired eight drawings by John Gordon Guthrie (1874-1961), an early 20th century stained glass designer. Guthrie was born in Scotland and apprenticed at his father’s stained glass studio in Glasgow at the age of 15. In 1896, he left Scotland for the United States and was employed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for about ten years. Guthrie’s philosophy on stained glass, however, was in conflict with Tiffany’s. Guthrie was a stained glass “purist” and favored the medieval stained glass principles that were in marked contrast to many of his contemporaries. Unsurprisingly, he eventually parted ways with Tiffany.
Guthrie would later become a noted stained glass artist in his own right and an expert on medieval saints. During his career, he worked for Duffner and Kimberly, Henry Wynd Young, and George Durham and Son. He also opened his own studio which operated until 1944. Many of his windows can be found in churches throughout New York City and in parts of Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.
The drawings by Guthrie recently acquired by the Library enhance our growing collection of works on paper related to stained glass. Below is one example from this collection of drawings. The sketch is of St. Bartholomew’s as it stood at its former Madison and 44th Street location. The church was first established in 1835 at the corner of Great Jones Street and Lafayette Place. Its second location, the one pictured in this sketch, was designed by architect James Renwick and built between 1872 and 1876. Thirty years later, the structure was enhanced with a triple French Romanesque portal, featured in this drawing. The portals were a memorial to Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The current location of St. Bartholomew’s, at Park Avenue between 50th and 51st Street, was built in 1916 and 1917.