▪ Radicalism – out of a conservative setting

The work of Margaret Rope is one of a radically modern approach to colour and design alongside a burning desire to depict the ideals of her faith.

Where did she find this radical streak?

We shouldn’t forget that Margaret came from a very conservative section of society, and a very conservative part of England.

Her father was an important figure, a doctor and a church-warden at Shrewsbury’s ancient (and huge) parish church – so her family upbringing was well within establishment lines.

As for her chosen art, stained glass is almost uniquely prevalent in Shrewsbury, with its plethora of great churches – with the dominant influence in stained-glass making locally being the Victorian artist David Evans. He may have died in 1861, but his work was ubiquitous.
To change perception would have been hard.

And so, it is likely that this window, in the picture below, is what Shrewsbury society desired in its church stained-glass.

Great War window at St Alkmund's
Great War window at St Alkmund’s, Shrewsbury

It is modern, yes, in depicting a ‘Tommy’, but – to me – it is slavishly following Victorian design, and is just plain dull.
Yet… only two hundred yards away, at the Cathedral, and for a decade already,  the youthful Margaret Rope had been producing work that is dazzling in its radicalism.

Where did she get the courage?  And how did she get the support?

2 thoughts on “▪ Radicalism – out of a conservative setting

  1. My impression is that her own strong character, mirroring the strong character of her indomitable mother, Agnes Maud nee Burd, carried her through the barriers of conservatism.
    There was also a strong artistic streak in her father’s family too, particularly her aunt Ellen Mary Rope, a pioneering sculptor at a time when women were not encouraged in the arts; and her uncle George Thomas Rope, a landscape painter and naturalist.


    • And I suppose I should add a mention of the influence of the Arts & Crafts movement.
      In the medium of stained glass, the pioneer was Christopher Whall, who was the inspiration and sometimes teacher of many artists in the field who followed him and sometimes, like Henry Payne, Margaret Rope’s teacher, studied under him.
      The vigour and self-confidence of the whole movement and its sub-section of stained-glass art should not be underestimated.

      Notably, women were not discouraged – quite the opposite – and the result of this can be seen in the number of women stained-glass artists, including Christopher Whall’s own daughter Veronica, who were active in the movement.
      On a professional and artistic basis all this would have given confidence to Margaret Rope as she started her career.


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