Harry Harvey

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HARRY Harvey, one of the leading figures in contemporary stained glass design, has died aged 88.

In a prolific career spanning the late 1940s to the late 1980s, he completed more than 220 windows. Perhaps his best known work is the large and colourful window in York’s restored Guildhall, reopened in 1960, depicting some of the city’s major historical buildings along with significant events in York’s history.

His work is represented in over 70 churches in Yorkshire including a vivid depiction of St Wilfred in Ripon Cathedral (1977), and a dramatic representation of the Last Judgment in Sheffield Cathedral. His work can also be seen in another 60 or so churches from Carlisle Cathedral to Shooters Hill in London, and from Builth Wells in Brecon to Great Thurlow parish church in Suffolk. He also decorated the Astronomical Clock in York Minster. He was elected a Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters in 1962.

Born in Birmingham, Harry Harvey attended Moseley Junior School of Arts and Crafts where a three-year course was offered for budding artists. His natural flair for figure drawing gained the then 15 year-old an apprenticeship in a stained glass studio with Pearce & Cutler in Birmingham where he learnt the basics of the trade.

Service in the Royal Navy intervened – he served as a signalman on the destroyer HMS Windsor. After the war, having married and moved to Devon, he began work at Whippells of Exeter in their stained glass studio.

He moved to York in 1947 at the invitation of a former designer at Whippells, Harry Stammers, who had been invited by Dean Milner-White to revive the York School of Glass Painting. Harvey became his assistant.

In 1956, with Stammers’s blessing, Harvey opened his own studio in York and he continued to work in the area until his retirement in 1987. He, in turn, took on two assistants, Sep Waugh from 1957 to 1967 and Ann Sotheran from 1982 to 1987, both of whom went on to open their own studios in York.

The development of Harvey’s early career in the 1960s was assisted by the patronage of eminent architect George Pace, widely regarded as the leading ecclesiastical architect in Britain until his death in 1975.

Pace’s commitment to marrying the modern with the traditional using the finest artists and craftsmen made Harvey a natural choice for many of his stained glass commissions; and as a fine lettering artist he was also the obvious choice for gilded and painted lettering projects and heraldic design.

Two notable examples of Harvey‘s work for Pace were the east window for Maesmynis church near Builth Wells (1964) and a series of painted wooden panels depicting various saints at a new church designed by Pace, All Saints, Intake in Doncaster.

He later enjoyed a fruitful professional relationship with the innovative restorer and conservator Keith Barley with whom he shared a studio. One of their notable collaborations was the restoration of the world-famous late medieval windows of St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire.

Harvey favoured the simplicity and directness inspired by classical iconography and the images of medieval glass. All his work displays a loving attention to decorative detail.

He was pleasantly surprised to see a renewed interest in his work among the on-line photo-sharing community using Flickr, where photographers have posted pictures of his work together with enthusiastic comments about their design.

In a recent article in Church Buildings magazine celebrating his work, David Pilkington commented: “Looking back at the work Harvey has left for posterity up and down the country, in cathedrals, parish churches and far flung village chapels, one is tempted to say that, like the music of J.S. Bach, there is not one dud note in the entire output.”

A dapper and stylish figure with a warm sense of humour, Harry was an inveterate sketcher and doodler.

Aside from art and design, one of his main interests was sport – he was a cricket lover and a very capable batsman who played club cricket and coached in the York area for many years.

He was a keen gardener and nature conservationist. His love of cooking survived even when his appetite was deserting him.

He is survived by his wife Margo, his brother Reg, two sons Michael and Jeffrey from a previous marriage to Eileen, granddaughter Katherine and great granddaughter Mina.