See what we’ve learned about the artistic team Henry and Kate Holiday over the last year
Today we return to Henry Holiday, a progressive English artist of the late nineteenth century who produced important work for St. Stephen’s and Philadelphia. He was a prominent participant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement that advocated high design and craftsmanship as well as collaboration among artists and architects; their intent was to update the medieval crafts team model to correct industrial standardization and isolating specialization. Holiday practiced what he preached. An advocate of women’s rights, he often collaborated with his artist wife Kate. Both also participated in the making of some of their work.
Henry Holiday’s stained-glass windows can be seen in various Philadelphia churches. For St. Stephen’s, he designed a double window for the east wall of the transept (1879-80) fabricated by James Powell & Sons, London. The Holidays also designed and helped to make, with Dr. Salviati’s Murano mosaicists in London, the compelling mosaic mural of the Last Supper as an altar screen (1887-9)—all memorials for the Magee family.
Given the dates and circumstances, it’s likely that architect Frank Furness recommended Holiday to the Magees. The Magee commissions begin with the double windows in the transept that were probably triggered by the death of the patriarch, James Magee, as the transept was completed in 1878. The later mural mosaic over the altar honors the matriarch of the family.
Holiday and Furness, we have learned, developed a long and fruitful relationship that resulted in various Holiday commissions in Furness buildings. The Magee projects for St. Stephen’s consequently may count among the Holidays’ earliest work through Furness and more broadly for Philadelphia.
The double window and mosaic mural, both with life-size figures, are commanding presences in Furness’ transept and Strickland’s sanctuary even from the nave, as you see here.
More on the individual works anon!
—Suzanne Glover Lindsay, St. Stephen’s historian and curator