top of page

Rhode Island - Stained Glass, Art, and Innovation

This series introduces artists associated with certain states; this one features the state of Rhode Island.

b. 1835 d. 1910

John LaFarge was born in New York City, the son of prosperous French emigres; his father was a refugee from the ill-fated Napoleonic expedition to San Domingo. LaFarge began drawing early, had intermittent instruction, and graduated from the Roman Catholic Mount St. Mary’s College in Maryland.

He studied law and received a Master’s degree in 1855. The legal profession did not appeal to him, however, and for a twenty-first birthday present, he began his art training with a year in Europe, where he entered the atelier of Thomas Couture. Returning to the United States, he studied with William Morris Hunt in Newport.

John La Farge reinvented the art of stained glass. In the mid-1870s, he began experimenting with stained glass, innovating in opalescent glass. He was awarded patents for his new methods in 1880 and 1883 despite challenges from his rival, Louis Comfort Tiffany. At the International Exposition in Paris in 1889, he was awarded a first-class medal and the ribbon of the Legion of Honor. The jury citation lauded him as: “…the great innovator, the inventor of opaline glass.

His first stained glass window for Trinity Church was installed in 1883, depicting Christ in Majesty on the west façade. This window was the model for the Window of Christ Preaching (1889) at Boston College.

Stained glass window of christ in majesty by John La Farge
Christ in Majesty by La Farge Trinity Church. 1883

Christ preaching stained glass by John La Farge
Christ Preaching by La Farge Boston College Libraries 1889


b. 1811 d, 1988

portrait of James Sullivan Lincoln by John Arnold
portrait of James Sullivan Lincoln by John Arnold 1906

American portrait painter based in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been called the "father of Rhode Island art" and the "father of art in Providence."

At age ten, the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island. Lincoln's father died when James was fourteen. Needing to earn money to support the family, James went to work for an engraving company in downtown Providence. Lincoln's job was to make the drawings for the engravings; his skill at drawing caught the attention of nearby artist C.T. Hinckley, who trained the boy in the painting.

One of Lincoln's earliest clients (when he was 25) was wealthy Pawtucket industrialist Samuel Slater, known as the "father of American Cotton Manufacture" (see below).

Slater was pleased with this portrait, which began a long portraiture series for James Sullivan Lincoln.

Lincoln later became the first president of the Providence Art Club. After 1837, his work consisted entirely of portraits. He died in Providence in 1888.


Helena Sturtevant

b. 1872 d. 1946

painting of a couple on horseback by Helena Sturtevant 1893
Couple on Horseback, First Beach by Helena Sturtevant 1893tevant

Sturtevant is best known for her light-filled paintings of the historic buildings and scenic coastline of her native state and her depictions of the sailboats partaking in the International Cup Races held in the waters off Newport, R.I.

Sturtevant’s formal artistic education occurred at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and at the Colarossi Academy in Paris.

Beach scene painting by Helena Sturtevant
Second Beach by Helena Sturtevant

Following her schooling in Paris, Sturtevant returned to Rhode Island and set up a studio on her grandparents’ estate in Newport. In 1909, she became a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.

Her exhibition history, notwithstanding any gender-induced biases, was extensive. In a review of one of her early exhibitions at the Copley Gallery in Boston in 1909, the critic noted, “Miss Sturtevant likes the effects of light in nature. Indeed, it is among the best of her qualities.


I would be remiss if I neglected to note the establishment of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

The Rhode Island School of Design's founding is often traced back to Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf's 1876 visit to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. At the exposition, Metcalf visited the Women's Pavilion. Organized by the "Centennial Women," the pavilion showcased the work of female entrepreneurs, artists, and designers. Metcalf's visit to the pavilion profoundly impacted her and motivated her to address a deficiency in design education accessible to women.

The school opened in October 1877 in Providence. The first class consisted of 43 students, the majority of whom were women.

RISD offers bachelor's and master's degree programs across 19 majors and enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate students. The Rhode Island School of Design Museum—which houses the school's art and design collections—is one of the largest college art museums in the United States.


Samuel Slater

b. 1768 d. 1835

English American businessman and founder of the American cotton textile industry.

He immigrated to the United States in 1789, attracted by the bounties offered to workers skilled in cotton manufacturing. However, he was forced to keep his knowledge and skills a secret from authorities because, at the time of the emigration of textile workers, the export of drawings of textile machinery was forbidden by British law.

Slater established the first successful cotton mill in the United States (Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1793). He subsequently established several other plants in New England and founded the town of Slatersville, Rhode Island.


Art in Rhode Island

Known as “The Creative Capital,” Providence is every art enthusiast’s dream come true. Between the Tony award-winning theater group Trinity Repertory Company, the Festival Ballet Providence, and the Providence Improv Guild, you can catch a live performance every night of the week.

If performance art is not your thing, you can view over 100,000 art and design objects at the RISD Art Museum, part of one of America’s top art colleges. Burgeoning artists can also find their place at AS220, an affordable artist-run organization where artists of every level can take classes in everything from comic book illustration to ballet.

If Light Shows are your thing, visit the Waterfire installation. Made up of over 80 bonfires that burn on vessels atop the three rivers that pass through the middle of downtown Providence, the fire sculpture attracts tens of thousands of people every year between October and May.


Pin it, please.



Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating

Annie Mason is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

bottom of page