Kempe: The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe

By Adrian Barlow

A biographical study of the Victorian church artist Charles Eamer Kempe and his considerable influence on church decoration worldwide.

ISBN: 9780718894634


Kempe offers a radical revaluation of the life, work and reputation of Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907), one of the most remarkable and influential figures in late Victorian and Edwardian church art. Kempe’s name became synonymous with a distinctive style of stained glass, furnishing and decoration deriving from late mediaeval and early Renaissance models. To this day, his hand can be seen in churches and cathedrals worldwide.

Drawing on newly available archive material, Adrian Barlow evaluates Kempe’s achievement in creating a Studio or School of artists and craftsmen who interpreted his designs and remained fiercely loyal to his aesthetic and religious ideals. He assesses his legacy and reputation today, as well as exploring his networks of patrons and influence, which stretched from the Royal Family and the Church of England hierarchy to the literary and artistic beau monde. These networks intersected at Kempe’s stunning Sussex country house, Old Place, his ‘Palace of Art’. Created to embody his ideals of beauty and history, it holds the key to understanding his contradictory personality, his public and private faces.

This book will appeal to everyone interested in Victorian art in general and stained glass in particular. Detailed and wide-ranging, Kempe tells a compelling story.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 336
Illustrations b&w and colour

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Adrian Barlow writes and lectures on literature, architecture and stained glass. A Fellow and former President of the English Association, his books include World and Time: Teaching Literature in Context and Extramural: Literature and Lifelong Learning (also published by the Lutterworth Press).


Foreword and Acknowledgements
Prologue: The Wheatsheaf and the Pelican

Part One: Life
1. Sussex – School – Oxford
2. Starting Out: Kempe and G.F. Bodley
3. The Kempe Studio (i): Wyndham Hope Hughes
4. The Kempe Studio (ii): John Carter
5. The Kempe Studio (iii): John William Lisle

Part Two: Art
6. Kempe Glass in Close-up: Friends, Patrons, Virtues

Part Three: Legacy
7. Kempe and Old Place
8. Kempe and Walter Tower
9. Kempe’s Reputation

Notes and References


Endorsements and Reviews

Forget what you knew, or thought you knew, about Kempe! Adrian Barlow’s reexamination of the life, art and work of Charles Eamer Kempe and his circle is a masterful exercise in biography and art history.
Dr Jasmine Allen, Curator, The Stained Glass Museum, Ely

This is a timely and long-awaited study of the work of C.E. Kempe and his successor company, not only in stained glass but within a wider context of later 19th and early 20th century design and the Arts and Crafts movement. Its illustrations draw attention to the consistently high quality of the firm’s work and the informative text should put its reputation where it properly belongs, equal to and sometimes even above its contemporary rivals.
Dr Donald Buttress, LVO, OBE, Surveyor Emeritus of Westminster Abbey

This book is invaluable for the way in which it adds significantly to our understanding of the man,the studio, the works and the era.
Jonathan Evens, in

Drawing on sustained research, much of it using material only recently rediscovered, this is a splendid account of Kempe and his world.
William Whyte, in Church Times, 17 Jan 2019

Barlow puts the man back into the picture and takes an invigoratingly fresh look. … This particular book fully deserves to be purchased by anyone interested in Late Victorian and Edwardian art.
Ann Kennedy Smith, in Journal of Victorian Culture, No XX, 2019

Adrian Barlow has provided us with an authoritative and judicious account of Kempe’s life and works
Peter Howell, in The Art Newspaper, No 313, June 2019

In the book Barlow challenges the criticism Kempe’s work received in the mid-20th century which was reflected in Pevsner’s lukewarm response to his stained glass in some of the early Buildings of England volumes, and he rightfully restores Kempe’s reputation to where it belongs.
Peter de Figueiredo, in Context 164, the Journal of the IHBC, May 2020

Gives an expert account of the external circumstances of Kempe’s career.
Nicholas Shrimpton, in Modern Believing, July 2020

[Barlow] provides his readers with … a deeper understanding of a central figure of British stained glass.
Vidimus, Vol 132, 2020

Excellent … Adrian Barlow shows an urgency and vitality to Charles Eamer Kempe’s life and career.
Graham McLaren, in Ecclesiology Today, Vol 58, June 2020

Meticulously-researched and very readable biography of C.E. Kempe.
Michael Kerney, The Journal of Stained Glass, Volume XLII,2018