It’s a happy day when one can say that one can get two Margaret Ropes for the price of one. And that is the case this month as the long-awaited photo-book of Margaret Edith Rope’s stained-glass works finally reaches publication.
Margaret Edith Rope is of course the cousin (younger by eight years) of Margaret Agnes Rope; and this book is the follow-up by Arthur Rope (a descendant, actually) to his earlier photo-book of Margaret Agnes’ works.
(Margaret Edith was also a stained-glass artist, which is why the two are often confused.)
The book comes in a number of formats (see below for details); and for those with deep pockets, you can even buy, in one volume, the earlier book (updated) combined with this later one.
The two cousins were brought up on opposite sides of the country, but, thanks to the nature of their close extended family, would have known each other well. They would have used their family nicknames – Margaret Edith was Tor, Margaret Agnes was Marga.
There are amazing similarities to aspects of their lives – both called Margaret Rope of course, both took up stained-glass (which caused the younger cousin to call herself M.E.Aldrich Rope in professional circles, to distinguish herself from Margaret Agnes); both were born Anglican and converted to Catholicism, both were unmarried, and both mixed in the Putney artistic milieu of the 1910s/1920s.
Tor seems to have joined Marga at the famous Glass House Studios in London in 1911 when she was barely twenty and when Marga was already established. At the Glass House, instead of having to work within the restrictions of a corporate environment, young men and women glass-artists could carve out their own independent careers.
Presumably – no one is really sure – Tor acted as a sort of assistant to Marga for a few years, before striking out on her own.
Work & style
Like Marga, one of Tor’s greatest works is a very early piece, a huge set of window-lights – the East Window at St Chad’s in Leeds. It is a dashing, freewheeling, exuberant piece of work.
However, the exigencies of making a living may have been behind the way she started later to tone down her style, as it evolved into something – as befitted the new democratic era, perhaps – plainer, simpler and more accessible, while still keeping a mastery of form. (At worst though, even her admirers will admit that her work does become ‘charming’).
Did she envy her cousin Marga, one wonders? Behind her convent walls, Marga could insist on her own vision, one that permitted a sense of ‘mystery’, symbology and uniqueness, as Marga did not have to kow-tow too much to a paymaster.
Though one may argue about who is the ‘better’ artist of the two, Tor’s name is certainly to be found in art-history researches more often. She figures in newspaper profiles; two of her glass panels are now exhibited in the Stained Glass Museum at Ely; and the V&A keep some of her work. No similar accolades are accorded to Marga (see Neglected Marga).
Tor didn’t lack for work either – she was working into her seventies.
She died in March 1988, thirty-five years after her elder cousin.
Arthur’s book is the first time that Tor’s work has received such a comprehensive profile. Like his earlier book profiling Marga, nearly every page is covered in superb photographs of the works, which each have tantalising captions and informative descriptions.
Though not a work of biography as such, there is yet enough here about Tor and her life to make one wish that one had known her; she seems to have met and been friends with many of the great female stained-glass makers of the years between the wars.
Arthur is clearly a fan of Tor’s work, and he ensures it is given a fair airing.
Thanks to the joys of modern online publishing, the reader can choose in which format s/he wishes to purchase this fruit of Arthur’s labours.
Because this started as a self-generated online project, one can choose it as an ‘pdf’ e-version (for tablets, Kindles etc) – but one can also have a printed version.
And – joy of joys – one can even pick a version which puts the works of both Margaret Edith and Margaret Agnes into the one volume… In other words, Arthur has managed to combine the works of both Margarets into a ‘double-volume’, so that his earlier profile of Marga’s works and the new profile of Margaret Edith’s works can be found in the one book.
Online publishing makes such things possible.
For myself, in acquiring the book, the format that worked best was the format that brought both Tor’s and Marga’s works together in one volume – and in printed form to boot. (Colours still seem truer on paper than on a computer screen).
To have Marga’s and Tor’s glass together in a printed book made it easier to compare and contrast their careers – a fascinating process – and this ‘double-volume’ comprises nearly 120 pages, so there is plenty to go at.
Click here for details of how and what choices to purchase.
The online-publishing platform which Arthur has used is Blurb. One advantage of Blurb is that it provides previews of the pages within the books as well as views of the cover… so you can peruse first!
The disadvantage of Blurb is that it sets the price, so the large-format printed versions can run expensive. But… they are things of great beauty…
Arthur Rope is to be congratulated on the achievement: stylish, professional and beautifully presented, any lover of Arts & Crafts Movement stained-glass will consider this work a must-have item.