Collections Highlight: Stained Glass

Categories: Articles, Collections

By Laura Hicken, assistant registrar

When visitors to the National Building Museum learn of the more than 130,000 architectural drawings in our permanent collection, they frequently think of blueprints and other technical drawings. They’re not wrong: we definitely have a soft spot for our thousands of beautiful and informative blueprints. However, the artifacts that fall into our “architectural drawings” category can be broader and quite surprising.

This painted canvas featuring doves and a vibrant landscape is attributed to the painter and stained glass artist Brenda Belfield. The painting, a design for a stained glass window, is one of the many gems of our Washington National Cathedral Collection, and brings wonderful color and variety to our more technical construction drawings.

Belfield’s incredible skill as a painter and understanding of the power of light and color caught the attention of Rowan LeCompte, the Cathedral’s prolific master stained glass artist. She eventually was commissioned by the Cathedral after LeCompte discovered her potential in the 1970s. Belfield would ultimately design approximately sixty stained glass windows for the Cathedral. Among her many contributions are a number of windows in the towers, a window depicting women of the Bible, and memorial windows like the design we’re sharing here.

This painting is soon to be featured in the National Building Museum’s upcoming exhibition Animals, Collected.  Just as we enjoy the surprises we find in our collections, we hope Animals, Collected will encourage visitors to look closely for the unexpected details in the architecture around them.