Henry Thomas Bosdet’s career started about twenty years after the Pre-Raphaelite art movement reached its peak, but it is clear from his work ethic and his detailed glasswork that the movement had a huge influence on his style. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1849 in the house of John Everett Millais’s parents in London, wanted a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and compositions of Italian art. They were a group of painters, poets, designers and critics who sought to modernise art and inspire their work with subjects from literature such as the Bible, Shakespeare and Chaucer.
Bosdet’s seven year training at the Royal Academy was broad and included life drawing, fine art, architecture and glasswork at a time when Pre-Raphaelite art had become the accepted style. John Everett Millais was a founding member of the movement; originally from Jersey, he graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts thirty two years before Bosdet became a student there. But his frequent visits to supervise students at the Royal Academy in the later years brought him into contact with Bosdet, either as a student or later in his position as Curator, for when Bosdet was teaching there, the two artists used to conduct drawing classes together. For two week periods, Bosdet would tutor and Millais would oversee the drawings the students produced.
The influence of the Pre-Raphaelite movement is evident in Bosdet’s drawings and artwork. He depicts effeminate looking males, expressive body language, and long tresses. When he started to design and make stained glass windows some ten years after graduating, his attention to detail showed magnificently in the compositions, intense colours and the penetrative effect of light. Later on, Bosdet was one of the founders of the Jersey Society in London and he used this as a platform to deliver talks on his hero Millais.
It is possible that the Pre-Raphaelite idea of different disciplines working together to produce art also influenced Bosdet’s approach to his commissions for glass windows. He understood that for his windows to be successfully installed he needed to have a team of welders, fitters, cutters and light engineers working as a team, and he supervised each window installation himself. This was quite a remarkable undertaking, requiring him to travel to many different countries including far flung Barbados for the work, at a time when travel to these areas must have been at best slow, unpredictable and tedious. But Bosdet was willing to take risks for the sake of art perfection, always pushing boundaries and trying new methods to achieve the result he desired.
Just as important as the teamwork was his excellent understanding of the medium of glass. Reflected light, which enables us to see the beauty of a painting, just deadens stained glass. Only after the light has passed through the glass and is refracted can we see the colours in all their beauty. He recognised the importance of managing refractive light in his stained glass windows, his compositions were energised through their relationship with light, the colours changing according to the time of day, the seasons and the weather.
During his life we see his work grow in scope, scale and ambition, the west window in Hexham Abbey in 1918 being the largest commission of his life.
For further biographical information see the Timeline below. Also Maya Hammarsal’s article published on the Merchant & Makers site.
Maya & Mark Jones have also produced an excellent film entitled “Bosdet: The Man Behind The Glass Window”, which they have kindly made available to view online below.
7 January. Born in Hampton Place, The Parade, St Helier, Jersey to Thomas (master mariner, pictured above, image courtesy of Paul Bosdet) of Jersey and Sophia Mary, née Le Roy, of Guernsey. The birth certificate states that he was delivered by his mother and that she registered the birth.
31 July. His mother,aged 30, dies at sea of typhus fever on her husband’s barque “Ellen” on a voyage from Liverpool to Honduras, and was buried on 20 September at St Saviour’s Cemetery, Jersey.
18 March. His father marries Emmeline, Sophia’s sister, in St Clement Danes, Westminster. (image courtesy of Paul Bosdet)
Pupil at University College School, (now at Hampstead) but then at Gower Street, London until 1871.
Living at 23 Graham Road, Hackney, London.
Living at 92 Sussex Road, Holloway, London.
12 July. Accepted as a Probationer Student (Painting) at The Royal Academy of Arts recommended by J.Sparkes, Principal of the National Art Training School, South Kensington (on the same site as the South Kensington Museum) later becoming The Royal College of Art. (Presumably Bosdet spent some time at this school. To become a Probationer, a prospective student would have to provide two drawings from classical figures and heads.(Source: Royal Academy)).
10 January. Enrolled as a full-time student at the Royal Academy recommended by J.Sparkes. (To be accepted as a student two further drawings were required to be made in the Schools showing improvement. Studentship at this time lasted for seven years and the main focus was drawing, first from Antique Casts and then from the Living Model (the Plaster Academy & the Life Academy)).
Presume graduated from the Royal Academy.
Living at 54 Patschull Road, Camden.
Supplied a window depicting the Crucifixion to Ste.Marie du Câtel, Guernsey.
Teaching at the Islington College of Art, also known as the Barnsbury School of Art, in Barnsbury Hall, North London, which laid emphasis upon craft, including stained-glass, and design. Mentioned in press report of the College's prize giving.
20 November. Appointed Curator of the Life School at the Royal Academy. (The role of Curator was created in 1866 with the aim of appointing a former student who would implement the teaching programme laid down by the Academy and the Visitors to the Schools.)
Listed as a Director of the Islington College of Art in a school programme.
Exhibited an unnamed portrait at the Royal Academy (Cat. no.1471).
Living at 1 Orchard Cottages, Charlton Road, Sunbury, Middlesex.
Professor of Drawing & Life at Elm House, 29 Northside, Clapham Common (since 1894 — source Maya Hammarsal).
Painted & presented life-sized painting “Christ Crowned with Thorns” to St Saviour’s, Sunbury.
22 June. Married Julia Marion Reece Edwards, a widow (born in Devon & three years his senior, daughter of a deceased barrister) at the Marylebone Registry Office. Witnesses, Adeline Bosdet Webber & her husband.
Living at 20 Newman Street, Marylebone, later moving to Inglewood, Grove Park Terrace, Chiswick, remaining there until 1910. (This address, Bosdet’s first professional studio, is inscribed on a number of his stained glass windows.)
Addressed the Jersey Society in London, of which he was a member, on “Art Ancient and Modern” (Bulletin of Jersey Society, London).
(Image: Advertisement appearing in Church of England Yearbook 1899, demonstrating Bosdet’s astute business sense)
Letter dated 15th July from Ernst Crofts of Burlington House, praising his long service as Curator of the Life School of the Royal Academy.
Joined La Société Jersiaise and was a member for the remainder of his life.
Appointed Curator of Life Drawing & Modelling from the Life (Evening Sculpture) Schools at the Royal Academy.
The “Sporting Life” of 23 May comments upon his recent window at St Mary’s, Kingsclere, near Newbury, Hampshire
31 August. Death of Bosdet’s father, Captain Thomas Bosdet, of cancer, in Grouville, in his 82nd year. Buried in St Saviour’s Cemetery, Jersey.
Completed Great East Window of Hexham Abbey, Northumberland.
Completed the Dean Farrar Memorial Window, Hexham Abbey.
Painted the reredos for St Saviour’s, Jersey depicting The Nativity.
Completed Baptistery Window at Hexham Abbey
Death of Bosdet’s wife, Julia Marion, aged 57. Buried at St Saviour’s Cemetery, Jersey.
Living at Bishopswood Studio, Brigwood Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, Hendon, London, where he remained until 1920.
Married [date unknown] second wife, Mary Catherine Brereton, twenty-one years his junior, daughter of Dr William Westropp Brereton, Professor of Surgery at Queen’s College, Galway (Bull., Soc.Jers. List of Members).
Birth of Harry Westropp, Bosdet’s only child, later killed in action on 19 June 1944 in Normandy.
Photo of R. A. Schools published in Lady's Pictorial. Tutor in black suit believed to be Bosdet.
(Image credit © Royal Academy of Arts, London)
Completed Great West Window, Hexham Abbey. The window bears the inscription: H.T.Bosdet 1917, Brigwood Rd, London (See also Parish Magazine article by the Rev'd E. S. Savage, the then Rector of Hexam Abbey).
10 April. Death of Bosdet’s stepmother, Emmeline, aged 92, in Grouville, Jersey. Buried at St Saviour’s Cemetery, Jersey.
8 May. Bought Belle Vue Cottage, St Lawrence (and lived there until June 1927).
In July resigned due to ill health from Curatorship of Evening Schools at the Royal Academy. Awarded a pension of £100 per annum in recognition of “his long and faithful service” (almost 37 years).
Resigned from Chairmanship of Council of Jersey Society in London and moved to Jersey with wife & son (aged 4).
3 April. Made will leaving his property to his second wife Mary and then to his son (Ref: Jersey Archive). Son Harry educated at Jersey Modern School (1925-1927).
25 June. Sold Belle Vue Cottage, St Lawrence and moved to France for health reasons. Harry educated at Lycée of Aix-en-Provence (1927-1931).
The family was now living at 7 Cours d’Orbitelle, Aix-en-Provence (Bulletin, Société Jersiaise).
Moved to 12 Cours Sextius, Aix-en-Provence. Also there in 1930 (Bull.Soc.Jers.).
The family left France and returned to Jersey, probably during the summer. Harry was enrolled at Victoria College on 17 September and remained for two years.
The family was living with a relative, J.H. Bosdet at Beechwood, St Peter (Victoria College register).
Rented Le Patrimoine, St Lawrence (Rates List, Vingtaine du Coin Motier, St Lawrence).
23 May. Bosdet died at Le Patrimoine. His funeral took place at St Saviour’s Church on 25 May and he was buried in the family grave in St Saviour’s Cemetery (Jersey Evening Post; St Saviour’s burial register 1934, page 210, entry 2108).
His death certificate states that he died of ‘bronchite, maladie du coeur’ and is signed by Dr H.J.Blampied.
18 June. The minutes of the Executive Committee of the Société Jersiaise record: “Le Comité a accepté avec remerciements l’offre généreuse de la part de Madame Bosdet, de donner à la Société une collection de dessins des vitraux peints, oeuvre de son feu mari, Monsieur H.T.Bosdet” (Bull. Soc.Jers. 1935). [The Committee has gratefully accepted the generous offer of Mrs.Bosdet to donate to the Société a collection of drawings of stained glass windows, the work of her late husband, Mr H.T.Bosdet.]
19 June. Harry, Bosdet’s only child, killed during Normandy landings. Buried in the Commonwealth Cemetery, near Bayeux.
Image: The Second Book of Remembrance, Victoria College, Jersey