Tale of historic stained-glass windows from Gray’s School of Art alumnus

Monday 20 December 2021

George Cheyne from RGU Art and Heritage Collection with book from Gray's alumnus, Henry Wynd Young
It’s come to light that an alumnus from Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University, crafted historic stained-glass windows on show at famous cathedrals and churches across the world.

The discovery of the Gray’s School of Art alumnus, Henry Wynd Young, was made by the artist’s great granddaughter, Tracy Trail Wong from the USA, who was researching her ancestry. She discovered a photo, taken around the 1890s, in the attic of the house where Henry lived in Westchester County, NY and confirmed the connection between the artist and Gray’s School of Art.

Tracy contacted Robert Gordon University’s Art and Heritage Collection to highlight her discovery, as George Cheyne, the Collection Co-ordinator, explains: “I was really excited when Henry Young’s great granddaughter got in touch and to hear that a Gray’s alumni had made such beautiful, stained-glass windows for famous churches and cathedrals across the world.

“It’s fantastic to learn that a Gray’s alumnus, who started his training from such humble beginnings in Aberdeen at around the turn of last century, went on to make world-renowned stained-glass windows. The windows feature panels in both white and coloured glass, grisaille painting and figure panels which would have drawn on techniques which the young Henry Young around the time of his studies in 1896.

“Gray’s School of Art has existed for over 135 years and in the challenging times of 2021, it is encouraging to learn that Gray’s creative spirit, continues onwards, as alumni create their own journeys and make their mark on the world. It is important to remember the achievements of those who came before us and to remember that Gray’s School of Art is not merely a physical building but also represents the journeys and achievements of students, alumni and tutors.

“Young not only represents the success story of a Gray’s School of Art alumnus but also a story of discovery, adventure, hope and achievement.  Born to a poor and obscure family, he would build on his talents and humble beginnings in Spa Street Aberdeen and go onto achieve a lasting world impact.”

Henry Wynd Young studied at Gray’s School of Art beginning in 1888, three years after the art school was created by local Aberdeenshire man and successful engineer, John Gray.

Henry was awarded a James Smith Bursary to study classes at Gray’s School of Art and went on to become a well-known stained-glass window designer in the USA with many of his windows featuring in Manhattan, New York.

By the time of the 1901 Census, Henry Young had changed his occupation from House Painter to Stained Glass Designer and upon leaving Aberdeen in 1907, headed to the San Francisco to work on the city’s reconstruction following the 1906 earthquake.

Henry Young’s great granddaughter, Tracy Wong said: “I never imagined that the postcards from Scotland I played with as a child would be artifacts that would reveal the path of this remarkable man. Henry Wynd Young was born the son of an army private and grandson of a weaver. His scholarship from Gray’s School of Art, which he was awarded at the age of 15 was life changing. With training and sketches in hand, young Henry left Scotland in 1907 and changed the course of his family’s history as well as that of stained glass and church architecture.”

Henry never quite made it to San Francisco, but his epic voyage led him to New York City where he remained, establishing a successful stained-glass studio where many notable stained glass artists trained and worked under his leadership. Notable projects he worked on include stained glass windows for the National Washington Cathedral DC, Trinity Cathedral Ohio. Newark Cathedral in New Jersey and the largest cathedral in the world, St. John the Divine, on Amsterdam Avenue in New York where Henry Wynd Young’s ashes are interred.

Between working on churches, Henry Wynd Young also produced work for many leading designers and patrons including the Rockefellers , the Morgans,. The Reids, E.F Albee and the Macys.

From his arrival in the USA to his untimely death at the height of his career on Christmas Day in 1923, Henry Wynd Young earned the reputation as one of the two most important leaders of the New Gothic Movement in the United States of America.

Learn more about Robert Gordon University's Art and Heritage Collection:


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