The Glass Wall (Dedicated to Linda McCartney)

Corning Museum of Glass, New York


This ‘wall of glass’, this membrane of fluid forms and liquid colour is derived from my fascination and love for heraldry, in particular the fleur-de-lys. It is dedicated to my beautiful friend Linda McCartney.” – Brian Clarke, 1998.

The Glass Wall – over 22 metres long and 4 metres high, a wall of mouth-blown stained glass that moves between translucent and transparent – was first exhibited at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York in 1998. The work was acquired by the Corning Museum of Glass in 1999 as part of its permanent collection, and was installed at the entrance to the New York museum until 2012. The designs for the work were resolved through a series of drawn and painted studies in Clarke's sketchbooks, and 'Study for The Glass Wall', a smaller-scale independent artwork.

From the New York Times review of the Shafrazi Gallery exhibition: “Taking as his leitmotif the heraldic fleur-de-lis, the English artist Brian Clarke has produced a mammoth eight-panel wall, measuring 1,012 square feet, that curves across the space of the gallery. A tour de force of contemporary stained glass, its brilliantly nuanced colors range from near-transparent white to rose and sparkling blue. Though its subject matter is entirely secular, it conveys a feeling of great cathedral spaces. Starting out as a painter, Mr. Clarke has in recent years become noted for his large-scale stained glass collaborations with architects, in countries ranging from Switzerland to Brazil to the United States. This wall, however, was made as a tribute to Mr. Clarke's friend Linda McCartney. It consists of eight panels, each gridded with 35 squares of leaded glass, differing in their colors and emphases.

In the first panel, a panoply of shimmering greens, the eye teases out the freely drawn fleur-de-lis; in another panel, it glows prominently in a hearty pink-rose touched by white against a background of celestial blue. In the last panel, milky whites define the motif on a rose ground. In panels between, traceries of the fleur-de-lis can be read, but overall the panels are seen as shimmering curtains of pure translucent white or color. Mr. Clarke's extraordinary sense of color and architectural design, expressed in a scale that is entirely appropriate, make 'The Glass Wall' a strikingly beautiful work." – Grace Glueck

"Through his painterly use of color and light, Clarke designs distinctive stained glass walls that introduce energy and vitality into the architectural spaces they inhabit. 'The Glass Wall', which measures more than 1,000 square feet, is dedicated to the late Linda McCartney, wife of the musician Paul McCartney. She was Clarke’s longtime friend and a distinguished photographer with whom he worked. The repeating fleur-de-lis motif is based on the lily, a flower that for centuries has served as a symbol of royalty. The abstract fields of color are inspired by the sky and water. Clarke chose this theme to reflect Linda McCartney’s love of lilies and his own interest in the colors and symbolism of British heraldry." – Corning Museum of Glass