Brian Clarke and Linda McCartney: Collaborations, 1994–1999


Between 1994 and 1998, Brian and Linda McCartney collaborated on three series of stained glass artworks combining traditionally mouthblown glass and black and white photography through a novel process of silk-screening they devised. These series, principally autonomous pieces, also include panels they gifted to and installed in the Hammersmith Hospital Cancer Centre, London, and windows for the Rye Memorial Hospital and Care Centre. Their works up to 1997 were the subject of a book, Collaborations, and a joint exhibition of their work together was held at Vitromusée Romont (the Swiss National Museum of Stained Glass) shortly before Linda's death, and at the Deutsches Glasmalerei-Museum, in Linnich, posthumously. The final series of their works together, though unpublished, was completed in 1999. Linda and Brian had previously worked together on projects including the cover art of Paul McCartney's albums Tug of War and Flowers in the Dirt, the 1992/3 New World Tour stage sets, and the book Linda McCartney's Sixties: Portrait of an Era.

"Linda McCartney, working with her friend, the artist Brian Clarke, is helping to spearhead a revival of an art form that has been dormant for more than 100 years - stained-glass photography. They have been secretly working for three years on reviving the technique, which was last in vogue in the 1880s, and which Clarke has experimented with once before. They have now produced a number of stained glass photographs, including a set of portraits of Sir Paul McCartney as well as other celebrities, friends, flowers and urban landscapes.

Through a new process that they have invented, Linda McCartney's photographs are silk-screened on to mouth-blown glass. Instead of using inks, the colour comes from using ground glass mixed with iron oxide that is then fired in a kiln at 1,200C. The surface of the glass melts, the ground glass in the pigment melts and the two fuse. The pair kept the project secret for three years, says Clarke, "as we did not want what is a very difficult technique to be plagiarised before the opening of the Romont exhibition. All the techniques we that we have used are known techniques, but nobody has ever put them together like this before." Linda McCartney said yesterday: "Having enjoyed collaborating with Brian for many years on various projects, I'm very excited about this opportunity to show our latest work. As a photographer, the possibilities of this form intrigue me."" – The Independent, February 1998.

"Occasionally Linda McCartney and I did little groups of these collaboration panels for actual places: there was a cottage hospital in Rye in East Sussex close to where we lived, and we made a group of ten of one of her black and white photographs of a leaf, screenprinted onto stained glass and repeated, like an Andy Warhol, which we jointly gifted, together with another set of a swan. Once it's repeated decoratively like that, the leaf has a vitality to it that it doesn't as a single image. These leaves had perfectly formed holes – you know how leaves, when they fall, can sometimes decay? I don't know if they'd been eaten out by a caterpillar or if it's just nature, but I love the way it renders with these bits missing from it. Highlighting spots of water fallen around it as blue somehow gave it a cartoony, kind of Walt Disney feel to it that I enjoyed. And we did another series for the cancer ward at Hammersmith Hospital, and put one panel over each bed, just to cheer people up a bit. They're still there I think. They made that ward just a little bit warmer, added an optimistic sparkle to a place that's generally pretty demanding to be in." – Brian, 2020