David Hockney’s stained glass window for Westminster Abbey, The Queen’s Window, is a vibrantly-coloured contemporary work commissioned to celebrate the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Located in the north transept, next to other more traditional stained glass windows, it can be seen as part of a visit to the Abbey.
The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, wanted to commission something to celebrate the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom's longest-reigning monarch. David Hockney, one of the most influential British artists of this reign, was asked if he would undertake the commission to design a stained glass window in a space which was then of 19th-century blank glass.
David Hockney is a Royal Academician, and has been recognized with an Order of Merit and as a Companion of Honour but had never worked in stained glass.
The Dean's brief to Hockney was to provide something symbolic or representational of the subject, rather than a heraldic or figurative design, and for it to be recognisable as his work. Within a day of being offered the commission, Hockney sent the Dean a first-draft design.
Hockney's design depicts a country scene featuring hawthorn blossom and using his distinct colour palette of yellow, red, blue, pink, orange and greens. It follows on from his acclaimed Royal Academy exhibition A Bigger Picture (2012), a major exhibition of landscape paintings, collages and electronically-produced art depicting the landscape and flora of the East Riding of Yorkshire, near Hockney's birthplace, Bradford.
A Bigger Picture was notable for the inclusion of a number of works produced by Hockney on his iPad, and Hockney again used an iPad to design The Queen's Window. Hockney considered the iPad a natural design tool for this project because, like a stained-glass window, it’s back-lit.
Hockney was also inspired by the work of Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, painters who also worked in stained glass.
The window reflects Queen Elizabeth II's interest and delight in the countryside, and is described by Hockney as "a celebration".
Stained glass artists and craftspeople at Barley Studio created the window using traditional techniques, working with the artist to translate his vision into glass. Barley Studio is a leading stained glass studio of over forty years based in York.
Helen Whittaker was primarily responsible for translating Hockney’s design to stained glass, and she made sure to preserve the natural, non-uniform lines of nature, captured by the artist in his design, in the final piece.
The vividly-coloured glass in the window was made by Glashütte Lamberts, Bavaria, who manufacture glass using traditional, hand-blowing techniques.
Barley Studio installed the window in the north transept of the Abbey in September 2018, and the window was dedicated by The Dean at a service on 2nd October 2018.
The window measures 8.5 metres high by 3.5 metres wide. It has 22 panels in the main window, seven panels in tracery and six eyelets.
Unlike most other stained glass windows in the Abbey, The Queen's Window is not painted, apart from the artist's hand-painted signature in the bottom right corner.
The Queen's window by David Hockney, co-ordinated by Susan Jenkins, 2020, is available from the Abbey shop.
It’s very hard not to be enthusiastic working at the Abbey. If this place doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will.