Alf Webster: Glasgow’s Lost Genius
On the 6th November 2015, we will be celebrating the Centenary of Alfred Alexander Webster (1883-1915), stained glass artist and master-craftsman, through a one day conference at Webster Theatre in Glasgow’s West End.
Webster was born at 40 Keir Street in Pollokshields on the 19th December 1883. As a child he attended Pollokshields Parish Church which had an array of stunning Stephen Adam windows. Adam would later be his mentor and friend.
In 1903, Alf registered for evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art and took a variety of courses including architectural modelling and stained glass, later switching to drawing and painting. It was the study of glass painting and the creation of stained glass windows which would eventually hold his attention. The skills he learned from life drawing classes would transfer into his windows, Webster is well-known for his ability to create incredibly detailed and emotive human faces.
Webster’s career was drastically cut short by the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Just one month after the birth of his third son, also named Alfred, Webster become the 2nd Lieutenant of the 3rd (reserve) Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders based at the Aberdeen city garrison. Lieutenant Webster was shipped to the front lines in May 1915, after just three months training. Webster sustained serious injuries on patrol duty on the night of the 16th August 1915. Despite ten operations he died of his wounds on the 24th August 1915.
The conference hopes to celebrate Alf’s tragically short life, and incredible artistic output, to give him the recognition he deserves as an important Glasgow artist and craftsman.
Dr Bruce Peter is Reader in Design History at The Glasgow School of Art. As an undergraduate student, in 1996 he had published his first book ‘Glasgow’s Amazing Cinemas.’ Since then, he has written extensively on subjects related to the architecture of entertainment and transport design. ‘From Comet to Cal Mac’ (with Donald E. Meek), published in 2011, is a history of Scottish West Coast shipping services.
Bruce will be chairing the morning session of the conference.
Prof. John Hume OBE is an Honorary Professor at both the Universities of Glasgow and St. Andrews. He was a lecturer in Economic and Industrial History at the University of Strathclyde. After a career with Historic Scotland as an Inspector of Scotland’s Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings, he eventually retired as Chief Inspector of Historic Buildings in 1999. Prof. Hume is currently a Chairman for the the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments and an Advisor to the Church of Scotland General Trustees Fabric Committee. He lives in Glasgow and was instrumental in setting up many local heritage organisation such as the Forth & Clyde Canal Society and has written major reference books on Glasgow’s Industrial Heritage.
Professor Robin Webster OBE is a partner in the Glasgow firm of Cameron Webster Architects, and professor emeritus at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, where he was head of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture for twenty years. He is Secretary of the Walmer Crescent Association, Chairman of The Alexander Thomson Society and a trustee of the Scottish Stained Glass Symposium.
Dr Sally Rush is a senior lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow, specialising in historic interiors and the visual culture of the Renaissance court. Her study of Scottish glass painting began when she was asked to contribute to the Glasgow volume of the Buildings of Scotland and she completed her Ph.D, Glass Painting in Scotland, 1830-1870 in 2001. In 2003, her doctoral research was put to one side in order to work with Historic Scotland on the restoration of Stirling Castle Palace. Recently, however, she has been working on the stained glass at Durham Cathedral and has contributed to Durham Cathedral: history, fabric and culture (2014). She is married to the stained-glass conservator and artist Mark Bambrough.
Ranald MacInnes is Head of Heritage Management at Historic Scotland with responsibilities which include advising the Scottish Government on planning and historic environment issues. He began his career with English Heritage in the 1980s. He has a special interest in 20th-century architecture and planning. He is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Institute of Art History, University of Glasgow, Visiting Lecturer in Architectural Design for the Conservation of Built Heritage at the University of Strathclyde and has taught conservation at the Mackintosh School of Architecture. He has published many books, essays, articles and reviews on architectural history and conservation. He has played a leading research-based advisory and regulatory role in many significant conservation and architectural projects.
Ranald MacInnes will be chairing the afternoon session of the conference.
Dr George Rawson, fine art and design librarian at the Glasgow School of Art 1977-2006 is an art historian with a special interest in 19th century British art education the Glasgow Style and the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Dr Patricia R. Andrew is an art historian, writer and lecturer, who has spent her career mainly in museums and galleries in Scotland and England. Her PhD from Edinburgh University examined aspects of 18th-century Scottish art and artists at home and aboard, though her research has since broadened to cover topics from the 1750s to the present day. She has organised numerous exhibitions and published on a wide variety of art and historical subjects. Following research undertaken for her recent book, A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists of the Twentieth Century, she is continuing to work on some of its artists, re-evaluating their contribution and giving them a more deserved recognition.
Meredith Macbeth MA is a self employed Stained/Leaded Glass Maker and Conservator based outside of Edinburgh. Her MA from the University of Lincoln studied the Conservation of Historic Objects and after working in Stone Conservation, she was drawn to the world of Stained Glass where conservation and craft are so closely entwined. Meredith has worked in several Stained Glass studios in the United States along with completing an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Meredith currently works with the Scottish Stained Glass Symposium and Trust, which is undertaking the mammoth task of recording all Scottish Stained Glass and developing their online database.
Peter Aiers joined the Churches Conservation Trust in 2007 and set up the Regeneration Taskforce to find solutions to complex historic church problems and enable more community involvement in the care and maintenance of our wonderful portfolio. Became Director for the South East in 2012 with a specific responsibility for overall Operational Management. Peter has raised well over £12m since being with the CCT and has led on several innovative projects such as the award winning All Souls Bolton, Champing and St Peter and the Old Black Lion.