English Glass Exported: Windows by Thomas William Camm at the Güell Palace, Barcelona
Dr. Nuria Gil (Art historian at the Universitat de Barcelona and independent scholar focusing on late 19th- and early 20th-century stained glass; her PhD considered the work of Antoni Rigault. A member of the CVMA Catalonia, Nuria works as an assessor at the Palau Güell, Hospital de Sant Pau, and Barcelona Cathedral and is Scientific director of the inventory of Catalan stained glass (Generalitat Catalunya/IEC)).
Jordi Bonet (Bch.Chemistry Universitat de Barcelona. Stained glass restorer at J.M.Bonet vitralls S.L., Jordi researches and publishes on the conservation-restoration of cloisonné panels, on the monitoring of stained glass in Mediterranean climates, and on early 20th-century enamel conservation. He also works as an assessor at the Palau Güell and the Museu d’Art de Cerdanyol).
Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi (1846-1918) was one of the most significant Catalan industrialists and entrepreneurs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His competence went beyond mere industrial and commercial interests, being, in addition, very active as a politician, philanthropist and patron of the arts. Among his activities was the support and promotion of the young architect, Antoni Gaudí, whom he commissioned in the mid-1880s to build the Palau Güell (Lacuesta & Moreno-Navarro, 2013), to serve as the new residence for Güell’s large and growing family. (After marrying in 1871, Güell and Isabel López Bru, daughter of the Marquis of Comillas, would go on to have ten children together). In 1908, in recognition of his entrepreneurial and patronal activities, King Alfonso XIII of Spain granted Güell the title of Count.
Building works at the Palau Güell in Barcelona began in 1886, in accordance with Gaudí’s designs, and continued until 1890. The Palau would be the first of many projects by Antoni Gaudí carried out under the promotion and protection of Eusebi Güell. Although conceived as a medieval palace, Palau Güell was also innovative in its design. Gaudí introduced a novel concept of illuminating the space with a clever combination of large windows at the top floor, and employed a mixture of traditional materials and innovative techniques. The Palau is located in one of the main streets of Barcelona’s historic centre, and side-by-side with another house owned by Güell at nº 30 Rambla dels Estudis. These two buildings were linked by a gallery (the gallery is still in existence, although the building no longer survives) in order to have enough room for the large Güell family. The building was considered an urban palace and while it was primarily a domestic house, it was also used for the family’s elaborate social life.
Stained glass windows at the Palau Güell
The Palau Güell houses a a large collection of stained glass windows, encompassing a variety of techniques and styles, making this single-owned private collection one of the most significant in Catalonia.
The stained glass windows that decorate the palace can be divided into two main groups. The first includes those windows with a historicising content and aesthetic, such as those in the corridor, the living room, the bedroom and the reception area. They depict medieval figures delicately painted with grisaille, enamel and silver stain, as well as complex geometric or floral patterns, which are typical examples of nineteenth-century stained glass windows. The second group stands out for the windows’ aesthetics and technical innovation. They contain no figural elements, the panels are surprisingly large, and incorporate plated pieces of glass. We can find such pieces in the main entrance, the penthouse and the billiard room. These windows followed the trends of the most contemporary style of stained glass art in Barcelona, carrying clear aesthetic influences of modernism.
Among the historicising stained glass windows are those depicting Shakespearean characters, Hamlet (fig.1), Macbeth (fig.2), King Lear (fig.3) and Bertram (fig.4). Two other panels show German Lansquenets, which are painted using only tracing lines and shading. There is little doubt that the last two windows were made by a different workshop.
The panels representing Macbeth, the Scottish noble, and Hamlet, prince of Denmark, can be found in the private rooms of Isabel Güell, Eusebi’s eldest daughter. Each figure is identified by their name inscribed on a label beneath their feet as well as by the attributes they carry, the skull for Hamlet and sword for Macbeth. These central rectangular pieces are surrounded by quarries made using acid etched flashed blue glass, incorporating a crown motif finished with silver stain. It is believed that these frames are later additions to the central panels to allow them to be installed within the bedroom windows. This re-sizing was probably the work of the local glazing workshop of the son of Eudald R. Amigó. Due to its technical and artistic similarities, the bust of Bertram, displayed elsewhere in the palace, can also be assumed to have been the work of the same glass painter as the figures of Macbeth and Hamlet. The fourth roundel, depicting King Lear, seems to have a similar origin (as discussed below), but the use of enamel on the carnation makes it slightly different to the other three.
The only window whose maker is known for sure can be found in the piano room. This is a sizable, complex window with a large piece of acid-etched scene surrounded by flashed glass depicting oriental schemes. The engraved glass shows a historical scene based on a canvas painted by the artist Manuel Ferran Bajona titled “Antoni Pérez freed by the people of Saragossa in 1591“(Farré, 2017). This window was made by “The Son of Eudaldo Ramon Amigó”, the largest and most prestigious stained glass company in nineteenth-century Catalonia.
Dating of the stained glass windows has unexpected difficulties. Some were made for the palace during the construction; some others, however, such as the figures of Shakespearean characters and the large acid etching, were probably made before the palace was completed in 1890, and may have been relocated from a previous building owned by the Güell family.
Researching the stained glass windows
In 2013 the authors of this article were commissioned to undertake a historical, artistic and technical study of the stained glass windows in the Güell palace. A number of features suggested that the windows were not made by Catalan stained glass makers. For instance, a textured glass with a pronounced wavy surface used in the background of the stained glass windows located on the main floor, which resembles Venetian glass (Benyon, 2005), was used very rarely in Catalonia. Other pieces of glass are also unusual in colour as well as style; they do not look like common German antique glass, nor do they look like “Early English” glass produced in the late nineteenth century. The windows also incorporate mouth blown glass with secular textures. In this period, Catalonia did not produce blown glass locally, therefore it was assumed that all the glass was imported. It was thought that some of the stained glass might have been imported from England. In the background of the windows depicting Macbeth and Hamlet can be seen a light greenish antique glass which is too clear for the southern light and most of the time looks transparent. However it is almost impossible to identify the origin simply through visual inspection.
Unfortunately, very little is currently known about nineteenth- and early-twentieth century glass sourcing in Catalonia. Some of the general obstacles to research in this field have been outlined by Cormack (Cormack, 2015), highlighting the difficulty of attributing glass to a specific manufacturer with certainty, as well as the confusing use of terms. In Catalonia, as already noted, there is the added complication in the fact that local stained glass makers did not have regional producers for most rolled and blown glasses, and therefore everything was imported from France, Belgium and Germany, for example. Once in the country, it was used by the glaziers regardless of its origin in the same stained glass window. Except in very rare cases, identifying the glass maker is very difficult if not impossible. Windows might, for example, have been constructed in Barcelona using English material by local studios, or they might have been bought in England and adapted to the required size.
Significantly, it is known that some of the artists and interior designers who worked in the Palau’s decoration had a close relationship with England. For example, the artist, Alexandre de Riquer, travelled several times to England where he met Arts & Crafts movement associates such as William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Thereafter, he introduced to Catalonia an English-inspired art nouveaux style. Similarly, the furniture-maker, Francesc Vidal i Javellí, was an active follower of English artistic trends and regularly visited the country, attending art fairs and exhibitions, establishing, for instance, solid commercial contacts with the Cloisonné Glass Company . Furthermore, Eusebi Güell and his children also had strong English cultural influences through their academic studies.
As part of the 2013 research, English stained glass experts Neil Moat, Martin Harrison and Jasmine Allen were contacted, and it was unanimously agreed that the Shakespearean stained glass panels from Palau Güell look like English domestic panels of the late nineteenth century, although their glass frames are not in line with English tastes of the time, being too garish and colourful. A number of workshops that might have been involved in the creation of the panels were suggested, whilst at the same time the difficulty of attributing the panels to any one of them was emphasised, due to the large number of artisans who worked in similar styles at that period. In a visit to the Palace, Sarah Brown suggested as an avenue of research the presence of English craftsmen at the Barcelona World Fair in 1888. The search of this fair proved unfruitful but it opened the way for a search for English stained glass windows at the 1878 Paris fair. The research was difficult due to the large number of English studios presenting work in this style (Harrison, 1980) as well as the quantity of information available (Allen, 2018).
Among all of this, however, we noted that work by Thomas William Camm (fig.5) displayed reasonable similarities with the general style of the windows at the palace, and also, interestingly, that he had presented a collection of figures of Shakespeare characters at the 1878 fair. The mystery of the authorship of the Güell palace’s stained glass windows was finally unveiled when we discovered three panels from the Camm workshop on sale through Tomkinson’s Stained Glass , based in Clophill, Bedfordshire. The panels portray Sir Thomas More, for which a full cartoon also survives (fig.6), Titania, from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and Hamlet (figs. 7 and 8): this last produced from exactly the same drawing as the Hamlet figure at the Palau Güell in Barcelona.
Thomas William Camm, stained glass artist
T.W. Camm (fig.9) was an important stained glass window designer and manufacturer, active from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, and very abundant in his production. Born in 1839 at Son Lane, West Bromwich, he learned his craft in Smethwick at the workshop of Chance Brothers & Co., where he began work as an apprentice .
Camm worked in the company’s ornamental department, headed by Sebastian Evan (1830-1909), until the department closed in 1865 and the company focused exclusively on glass production. In that same year Camm established his own studio, operating as Camm Brothers, also based in Smethwick. The Chance Company maintained a good relationship with Camm, promoting him through recommending the Camm workshop to any former customers interested in commissioning stained glass. Camm’s workshop was very successful and soon expanded, serving both religious establishments and also private customers. It was at the 1878 International Exhibition in Paris where Camm exhibited stained glass portraying characters from the works of William Shakespeare that his studio gained international recognition, winning gold medal for its work. The studio went on to win a further medal at the Sydney Fair of the following year. In 1882 the business was acquired by R.W Winfield of Birmingham, but continued to work under the Camm name, with the Camm brothers becoming employees, until 1888 when T.W.Camm established a studio under his own name. The similarity of names between the two companies was confusing and forced T.W. Camm to publish a press note specifying that the two workshops had nothing to do with each other. In 1862, Thomas married Charlotte Middleton, with whom he had many children, three of whom followed the tradition of the family business, Florence (1874-1960), Robert (1878-1950) and Walther Herbert (1881-1967). Among them Florence was especially talented at designing and painting. She had attended lectures at the prestigious Birmingham School of Art. A triptych designed by her, now on display at the Birmingham Museum, won a medal at the Turin Exhibition of 1911. Named “La vita nuova” , the window incorporated scenes inspired by Dante’s “Divine Comedy” . Florence also designed and constructed a window for a Spanish setting, at the Palacio de Artaza in Bilbao. Thomas William Camm died in 1912, but his children continued to work at his studio until 1960. His three brothers remained childless and lived together in a house named “Rookwoods” in Harborne Road, Warley.
Shakespearean Stained Glass of T.W. Camm at the Güell Palace
Four windows at the Güell Palace are decorated with literary characters from the works of Shakespeare. Two of these, as we have seen, in the former bedroom of Isabel Güell, depict full body representation of the characters Hamlet and Macbeth; the others take the form of roundels, displaying the faces of King Lear, and Bertram, from the play “All`s well that ends well” located in the corridor of the main floor. These figures, based on Shakespeare’s works, are unique in Catalonia. It is possible that Eusebi Güell chose the theme himself, given his family’s acquaintance with English culture. Indeed, in 1903, Eusebi wrote a play entitled “Cassius and Helena”, inspired by Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. However, the figure and literature of William Shakespeare was very much admired more generally during this period in Catalonia, with his plays then being performed in many Catalan theatres. Similarly, English motifs arising from Arts & Crafts were a source of inspiration for many Catalan artists and artisans.
Despite the fact that there are still some unknown issues, the authorship of these panels can confidently be attributed to T.W. Camm. The Hamlet panel at Tomkinson’s Stained Glass has some minor differences in the leading network, and the painted grisaille found here has a red hue not found in the panel at the Palau Güell. There are also some minor differences in the backgrounds towards the foot of each panel: the panel in Barcelona includes, on the viewer’s left hand side, a handled mirror, and, on the right, slightly different foliage forms. The figure is surrounded by a slender frame decorated with a white and gold undulating pattern that does not appear in the example in England, but which can be observed in another panel by T. W. Camm (Christ the Bread of life and Christ the True Vine, part of the Oak and the Lily, from Swedenborgian Church, Wretham Road, Handsworth) exhibited at the Birmingham Museum of Art. The size of the two panels is very much the same: 46x24cm.
One possible hypothesis is that the Shakespearean panels at the Güell palace had been purchased through the furniture and art objects company of Francesc Vidal i Jevellí, who was in charge of the interior decoration at the Palau. Vidal had established commercial relations with the English company T.Webb & Co, specialising in the creation of luxury glassware. Within the Camm and Chance archive, kept in Smethwick, a letter dated 1882 was found from T.W. Camm to Webb & Co accepting Webb’s proposal that he (Webb) work as a commercial agent of the Camm company in Spain. It can be assumed that this was an answer to a previous letter sent by the Webb house, where he offered his commercial services. Although it cannot be established absolutely that this was the exact path by which the Shakespearean windows were brought to Barcelona, this seems the most probable scenario based on all currently available information.
Linking panels from the Palau Güell to the work of T.W.Camm has been such a thrilling work. One especially interesting element of research into the history of Gaudí’s buldings is trying to describe who worked on each of the decorative arts associated with the commissions; how the architect was involved; and trying to disentangle who was the real creator of the work. The findings outlined here have made a small contribution in the field of the stained glass work at Gaudí’s building; work which can perhaps be expanded and augmented with the help of British experts. The imported English windows in Spain opens another new field of research to us which should yield further results.
 Francesc Vidal I Jevellí (1848-1914) established his studio dedicated to the decorative crafts in 1883. This furniture and arts workshop was the most significant of its time, employing up to two hundred craftsmen working in the various furniture arts.
 http://www.vitraux.co.uk/product/ref-ron409-roundel-3-antique-stained-glass-windows-arts-crafts/ Last visited on the 19th November, 2018.
 Most of the company’s documentation is held at the Black Country History archive in Smethwick.
 Chance Brothers & Co. was one of the most significant English glass production companies of its time. pioneering the development of a number of glass making processes. Establishing its Smethwick workshop in 1822, its achievements included the introduction to Britain of cylinder blown sheet glass and the provision of glass for the Crystal Palace to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.
 Now displayed at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Allen, J. (2018). Windows for the World: Nineteenth-Century Stained Glass and the International Exhibitions, 1851-1900. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Benyon, T. (2005). ‘The Development of Antique and Other Glasses Used in 19th- and 20th-Century Stained Glass’, Journal of Stained Glass 29, 184-200.
Cormack, P. (2015). Arts & Crafts Stained Glass. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Farré, N. G. (2017). L’Enigma del Vitrall del Palau Güell. Diputació: Barcelona.
Harrison, M. (1980). Victorian Stained Glass. London: Barrie & Jenkins.
Lacuesta, R., & Moreno-Navarro, A. G. (2013). El Palau Güell. Una Obra Mestra d’Antoni Gaudí. Diputació: Barcelona.
We would like to thank Sarah Brown, Martin Harrison, Jasmine Allen and Tomkinson Stained Glass for their help, and especially Neil Moat who would have probably enjoyed the news. Also the Black Country Archive for their help and patience during the days of our research and Jelizaveta Tsedenova for the review of the text.