The Story

024 Rowan Drawing 2

016 Glass ReviewWEB

Mary Higgins

Side1aT

 

This is the story of a great artist producing his last great work of art. It is the story of the human struggle to create and the monumental, stunningly beautiful results that are possible when we apply ourselves to that struggle.

The film follows Rowan LeCompte and Dieter Goldkuhle as they make their last great window for Washington National Cathedral. One is an uncompromising artist, the other a meticulous German craftsman who is also a philosopher. These two aging grand-masters of stained glass labor to create a masterpiece in a race against time. 

Washington National Cathedral is the 6th largest cathedral in the world and took over 80 years to build. Rowan first visited the building while it was under construction in 1932 at the age or 14. Two years later, at the age of 16, he had a commission to make his first stained glass window for the building. 

At 81 Rowan was commissioned to produce his last window for this monumental building. The project was initially intended to take one year and be ready for the 2007 centennial celebration of the cathedral’s founding. Rowan was to design and paint this enormous window and Dieter, his long-time collaborator, was to select and cut the glass and do the leading and installation. Born in Germany, Dieter is a gifted craftsman who has fallen in love with glass and light. A visit to Lambert’s Glassworks in Waldsassen Germany illustrates his respect for the medium and the people who make it.

Following Rowan as he designs the new window, draws the full size cartoons and paints figures on the colored glass, it becomes clear that age is taking its toll and he is struggling with the process. The window is way behind schedule and the centennial deadline is missed. Because of artistic differences and the slow pace of the work a tension develops between the artist and the craftsman and Dieter must leave the project because of other commitments. Ironically, one of the reasons Dieter must leave the project is because he has a commission to restore some window in Mercersburg Pennsylvania that inspired Rowan as a young artist.

Mary Clerkin Higgins, president of The American Glass Guild, and a woman in a man’s field, takes over for Dieter. After four years of work a major conflict erupts between the artist and the cathedral administration and the window is rejected. Mary intervenes and attempts to resolve the issues. 

Told with stunningly beautiful images, this is a story of passion and creation - about the struggle to create great art using glass and light. One of the film’s underlying themes is the power and beauty of light. Its aim is to inspire and ignite that inner creative light that is within all of us.