Stephen Adam & Son

Glass suppliers

Stephen Adam & Son was one of the most successful stained-glass businesses in the West of Scotland. It was established by Edinburgh-born Stephen Adam (1848–1910). Adam's career started in Edinburgh in 1861 when he was apprenticed to eminent glass-painter James Ballantine of Ballantine & Allan. In 1865, he started working as an assistant with the new business set up in Glasgow by Daniel Cottier. In 1870 he left to set up his own business with David Small (1846–1927). 1 Former house-painter Small (1831–1886) retained his own Edinburgh glass 'embossers and fancy decorators', which he ran on his own from 1877. 2 The partnership ended in 1885.

Adam, with his 'exceptional sense of colour', began attracting numerous commissions and prizes. 3 As 'Cottier's sylistic successor', Adam's output was 'dominated always by [his] figure drawing', which drew on neoclassical, rather than Gothic, influences. 4

A publicity article from 1891 describes the Glasgow premises in St Vincent Street as six-storeys of 'lead-working ... cartoons ... glass painting workshops [and] kilns for firing'. 5 During the 1880s, the business completed 220 memorial windows, including 'Paisley Abbey; [the] Kidston memorial, Cambuslang; Smollet memorial, Bonhill; [and the] Clark memorial, Paisley'. 6 In 1873 Adam collaborated with Andrew Wells (1845–1915) on the decoration and glazing of Belhaven Parish Church, Glasgow.The realistic depictions of local industries for Maryhill Burgh Hall in 1878 marked a 'defining' shift in subjects considered suitable for such decorative treatment. 7

Adam's studio expanded significantly from 1889 and he mentored mentored many younger artists, including his talented son Stephen Adam Junior, and Alf Webster. Adam exhibited at the 1895 Glasgow Arts & Crafts Exhibition and the catalogue indicates that he worked with his son Stephen Junior. 8 In 1896 Stephen Junior graduated from the Glasgow School of Art and became his father's business partner. A dispute with his father led to the break-up of that relationship in 1904. 9 Alf Webster continued to work for Stephen Senior, producing technically and aesthetically accomplished designs. By the time of Adam's death in 1910, Webster had taken over the practice which continued to deliver a prolific output. 10 Adam's writings on glass included: Stained Glass: Its History and Development (1877) and Truth in Decorative Art: Stained Glass, Medieval and Modern (c. 1896)

Notes:

1: Census 1861, at www.ancestry.co.uk, accessed 3 April 2013.; Glasgow Post Office Directory 1871–2, p. 50; Michael Donnelly, Glasgow Stained Glass, Glasgow: Glasgow Museums, 1981, p. 13; Michael Donnelly, Scotland's Stained Glass: Making the Colours Sing, Edinburgh: Stationery Office, 1997, pp. 32–3.

2: Edinburgh Gazette, 22 September 1868, p. 1175; 22 October 1878, p. 807.

3: Scotsman, 25 August 1910, p. 4.

4: Martin Harrison, 'Victorian Stained Glass', quoted in Iain B. Galbraith, 'Always happy in his designs: the legacy of Stephen Adam', Journal of Stained Glass, 30, 2006, p.102.

5: 'Stephen Adam & Co.', Glasgow and its Environs, London: Stratten & Stratten, 1891, p. 140.

6: 'Stephen Adam & Co.', Glasgow and its Environs, London: Stratten & Stratten, 1891, p. 140.

7: Iain B. Galbraith, 'Always happy in his designs: the legacy of Stephen Adam', Journal of Stained Glass, 30, 2006, p. 103.

8: Annette Carruthers,The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland: a History, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013, p. 371.

9: Edinburgh Gazette, 15 April 1904, p. 427; Michael Donnelly, Scotland's Stained Glass: Making the Colours Sing, Edinburgh: Stationery Office, 1997, pp. 38; 41–2; Iain B. Galbraith, 'Always happy in his designs: the legacy of Stephen Adam', Journal of Stained Glass, 30, 2006, pp. 109–10.

10: Michael Donnelly, Scotland's Stained Glass: Making the Colours Sing, Edinburgh: Stationery Office, 1997, p. 42.