Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Visions of Heaven

By Peter Hayward

SLIDESHOW: The story of the artist who created Goddard Chapel’s magnificent stained glass windows

Walk into Goddard Chapel, and from just about any angle, you’ll see magnificent stained glass windows. Behind the pulpit, St. Paul is standing with a Bible and a sword symbolizing martyrdom, the light catching one hand. In the large window above the balcony, the afternoon sun illuminates an image of St. John.

For almost 130 years, Tufts students have gazed upon these windows’ sublime colors and inspiring biblical scenes, but few know much about the difficult life, checkered career and independent spirit of the artist behind them, Tommaso Juglaris.

Watch a slideshow of works by Tommaso Juglaris. Click the expand button on the right to launch a full-screen player. Photos by Emily Zilm and Joanie Tobin

Born in northern Italy in 1844, Juglaris attended the Accademia Algertina in Turin from 1859 until 1862, but had to abandon his studies when family money became tight. He scraped by as a muralist for churches and private homes in northern Italy, and in 1871, he left for Paris, then the undisputed art capital of the world.

There he studied under Thomas Couture, a traditionalist who painted in the realistic style that was in vogue. Couture also favored the classical tableaux that were widely admired in the city’s salons. Couture’s finished technique and historical subject matter had a strong influence on Juglaris, who began to make a name for himself. A turning point came in 1880, when he was offered a six-month contract as art director of Louis Prang and Company, a Boston lithographer.

Juglaris crossed the Atlantic in search of his artistic fortune, and at first hit it off with his new employer. In his journal he wrote: “[We] were merrily talking of art and artists, of business affairs and of works to be published, of which I would be the editor and designer . . . . I went to bed dreaming of a future very different from the past, persuaded that by changing countries, one changes one’s luck.”

But the situation deteriorated. One of Juglaris’ tasks was designing Christmas and New Year cards, not exactly the sort of work he had had in mind. He fell into a serious pay dispute with Prang as well.

After the six-month contract expired, he struck out on his own despite his limited English. By 1882 he was an instructor at the Boston Art Club, a well-known institution like the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He later also taught at the Rhode Island School of Design. Among his notable students were the Impressionist painter Childe Hassam, the Gloucester artist A.W. Buhler and the Boston etcher and watercolorist Sears Gallagher. Loring Homes Dodd, Gallagher’s biographer, wrote, “Gallagher remained grateful for years afterward for the sense of discipline his instructor had permanently imparted.”

On to Goddard

It was in Boston that Juglaris made his first foray into stained glass design. He was hired by the Boston-based stained glass producer Donald McDonald, and completed commissions for stained glass installations in Baltimore, New York and San Francisco. Once again, his talent won him distinction: he became one of the country’s leading decorative artists, says the Rev. Geoffrey G. Drutchas, an expert on Juglaris and director of the Tufts chaplaincy from 1981 to 1984.

While Goddard Chapel was being constructed on the Tufts campus in 1882–83, J. Phillip Rinn—who was also the architect of other Tufts buildings, specifically Barnum Hall and a portion of the Metcalf dormitory—hired Juglaris to design the stained glass windows. They were made using a new process that involved etching color onto glass, rather than simply painting it.

The result can be seen in the splendid windows depicting St. John and St. Paul. In addition to these two, there is one of St. Mark, on the eastern side of the chapel facing Ballou Hall. But because it has been damaged and repaired a number of times, it is the least representative of Juglaris’s original designs, says Drutchas.

Still, this window, like the others, is important for more than just its beauty. “The value of the stained glass windows in Goddard Chapel is as much historical as aesthetic: the stained glass of the chapel sanctuary represents at least two stages in the renewal of a ‘lost art’ for Europe and America,” according to a 2005 brochure based on Drutchas’s research.

During the Reformation, stained glass fell out of favor, and there wasn’t renewed interest until the mid-1800s. Artisans in the U.S. started to figure out the techniques, which Juglaris employed. Later, by the 1890s, painted and etched stained glass windows, like those designed by Juglaris in Goddard Chapel, was supplanted by opalescent stained glass windows, as popularized by Tiffany. One of the windows now in the chapel, featuring lilies, was produced by Tiffany studios and installed after the main windows were finished.

Glorious Highs, Abysmal Lows

Emotionally, Juglaris was experiencing both glorious highs and abysmal lows. On July 5, 1883, he married Katie Brooks, a pianist. Their daughter was born the following May, but later in the month, Brooks died of postpartum complications. Juglaris paid tribute to his wife by sculpting a beautiful marble bust of her that can be seen today on her grave in Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston. Their daughter died four months after Brooks.

The puritanical leanings of Boston society in the 19th century also posed challenges for Juglaris. His patrons implored him to partially drape his female nudes. He refused. His most famous female nude, Yvonne (1886), commissioned by the Locke-Ober restaurant in Boston, still hangs in that establishment.

Outside Boston, other kinds of trouble dogged Juglaris, even though he was much in demand. In 1886 he received a commission for the rotunda of the Michigan State Capitol building for which he painted eight muses representing agriculture, arts, science, commerce, education, industry, justice and law. But because non-citizens were forbidden to work on public buildings in Michigan, he was never credited for the project.

In fact, that work went unrecognized for more than 100 years, until Drutchas, now senior pastor of the St. Paul United Church of Christ in Taylor, Mich., noted Juglaris’s distinct style of painting while touring the state capitol. It turned out Juglaris had left his monogram on one of the panels, which was confirmed by Drutchas, who also found sketches for the rotunda paintings in Juglaris’ papers in Italy.

In 1890 Juglaris received yet another important commission: painting Frances Cleveland, the second wife of President Grover Cleveland. While the painting has been lost, Juglaris left an account of its creation in his autobiography:

“On August 4th [1890] I left again for Marion [Massachusetts]. Mrs. Cleveland wanted to see me and wished to have her portrait done. I went taking a canvas, a framework and whatever else was necessary. . . . I became acquainted with him [President Cleveland], [and] I dined there twice and obtained the best guarantees for my future if I stayed in America, but my health was declining too much, and so it was killing me. I finished the portrait in seven sittings of two hours each. Mrs. Cleveland posed like a professional model. It was found to be an excellent resemblance and I was paid 500 dollars.”

Ill health and a desire to renew his acquaintance with a woman friend in Italy led Juglaris to return home in 1891. That same year he married Marzia Copello Campsoprano, the widow of a friend. In 1893 he sent a painting entitled The Sermon on the Mount, which is now lost, to the Columbia Exhibition in Chicago. Then in 1897 tragedy again struck Juglaris when his second wife died. In 1902 he returned to America for a final time to begin work on his last major commission here.

It was during this last stay in the United States that he completed what is arguably his most famous and successful composition: the murals for the Franklin Public Library in Franklin, Mass.

The library was designed as a Greek temple, and Juglaris was commissioned to decorate the reading room with murals of ancient Greek life. It was hard and tiring work for the 60-year-old artist. To make matters worse, he had to endure the usual criticism about nudity in his work.

The murals, entitled Greek Life, were enthusiastically received. Margaret Storrs Turner, a writer for New England Magazine, wrote that Juglaris “…is perhaps the only man who could have successfully undertaken the delicate task of painting the frescoes of so classical a structure as the Ray Memorial. . . . There is nothing sentimental, mystic here. The clear joyousness of the pictures fits the building as glove fits hand. . . . The gaiety of youth, the dignity of age are imbued alike with the spirit of the antique, allied to a glad freshness of color which is part and parcel of the cunningly devised whole.”

Watch a video tour of the murals created by Tommaso Juglaris for the Franklin (Massachusetts) Public Library.

The work on the Greek murals had exhausted Juglaris. He was anxious to go back home, and in 1906 he returned to Turin for the final time. At the end of World War I he opened an art school in Moncalieri. In 1919 he finished his last major commission, a mural series for the Stations of the Cross, for a church in Moncalieri, his hometown. He died there six years later on January 16, 1925.

“Juglaris left his indelible mark upon America,” wrote Drutchas and Kerry K. Chartkoff, in a 2004 catalogue from the exhibition Tommaso Juglaris: An Artist Between Europe and America, which was on display in Lansing, Mich., and Moncalieri, Italy. “More than a century later, some of Juglaris’ major works—paintings, murals and stained glass—survive intact in Massachusetts and Michigan. Perhaps even more important, however, is Juglaris’ less tangible and visible legacy. At a very critical period in the development of the fine and decorative arts in the United States, Juglaris personally served as bridge between Europe and America. Raising the bar on art standards, Juglaris imparted to a new generation of American artists the valuable knowledge and skills necessary to build on the best of the European tradition. In the end, Juglaris’ transatlantic career truly enriched American art and culture in ways that deserve to be remembered.”

Peter Hayward, A73, is an apple farmer and writer living in New Hartford, Conn. He is indebted to Geoffrey G. Drutchas and others for their research on Tommaso Juglaris.

Posted November 29, 2010