Modernist stained-glass windows, between innovation and tradition

The modernist artists recovered the old technique of decorative stained-glass and introduced it in their architectural works. This meant a revolution in their use, manufacture and traditional themes.


The passage of the decorative stained-glass from the religious to the civil area brought about a modernization of the existing themes and the creation of new ones destined to the decoration of spaces where until then it was not usual to find them as halls, offices, shops. 

With the modernist buildings appear new decorative motifs, among which the production of floral and plant themes predominate. During the Modernism, the stained-glass became popular and reached all the daily spaces, being incorporated in the furniture as a decorative element and going beyond the representations of religious character.


While the manufacture of the stained-glass continues to be a craft and the imprint of industrialization is very low, the same does not happen with the systems for processing the raw material: glass. The mechanization of the production of the glass plate involves: 

  • A wide variety of printed glass using new models with many textures and shades. 
  • The glass molds are produced in series from a matrix. These are small glass pieces that could have different colors and shapes (circular, square, rhomboid, etc) and were manufactured industrially. In the modernist stained-glass windows it is customary to use combinations with other types of glass. 


Parallel to the industrialization process, with their research the modernist glassmakers solve the problems of firing that presented the stained-glass windows of previous times and improve the ancient techniques of polychrome on glass. 

From the research carried out at this time, three technical contributions should be highlighted: cloisonné glass, Tiffany glass and “tricromía”.

  • Cloisonné glass: It is made from small glass balls that fill the holes created by copper filaments. Everything is glued between two sheets of glass.
  • Tiffany glass: It was created in 1900 and it is not dyed. Oxides are used in the making of the drawings and the pieces are baked.
  • Tricomía Glass: This is a superposition of glass composed of two or more sheets of different colors or primary colors. The result is a composition that weighs a lot, which caused it to be used less and less.
  • Mosaic glass: It is characterized by a minimal pictorial intervention in the glass. The glass is the protagonist and the plays of light and colors are obtained by combining glasses of different typologies and tonalities. 

On the other hand, lead, which until then had only been considered a basic element for supporting the glass plates, will become the main element of the design.

Unlike the glassmakers of previous periods, many modernist artists will receive academic training at the Llotja School in Barcelona. This education will provide the specialist with more training than the traditional medieval craftsmanship, developed within a guild structure. 

Did you know all these data about the modernist stained-glass windows? If you are interested in modernist craftsmanship you can’t miss these 5 modernist smiths that you should know.