Artist on Canvas and Glass: the Stained Glass Work of Norman Carter

Karla Whitmore, researcher and writer on stained glass in Australia.
Artist on Canvas and Glass: the Stained Glass Work of Norman Carter
Early Life and Training
Norman St. Clair Carter was born in 1875 in Melbourne, his grandfather having come to Victoria from Cheshire, England via New Zealand. His father, H.C. Carter, was a grain merchant. Carter left Melbourne Anglican Grammar School and began work in 1890 when the depression affected the family business. That year he got a job cutting stencils at the fashionable Melbourne furnishing and decorating firm the Kalizoic and was apprenticed to the stained glass firm Hughes Rogers & Co. following the suggestion of family friend Ernest Tucker who worked at the Kalizoic.1 John Hughes, who became his teacher and friend, had come from England to work for stained glass firm Brooks Robinson & Co. and then formed a partnership with glazier Rogers. The studio was located off Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, between Elizabeth and Queen Streets. Carter learnt by assisting Hughes with studio tasks and watching him draw cartoons and paint figures. The partnership was dissolved around 1894 and Hughes returned to England where he continued working while Carter found employment at Ferguson & Mitchell which sold stationery, art materials and prints. When this firm became insolvent he returned to assisting his father in the grain business as he had done after leaving school.
Carter’s training in art, the profession which was his goal, began while he was working at Hughes Rogers & Co. He enrolled as an evening student at the National Gallery Art School studying theory under Frederick McCubbin and L. Bernard Hall and painting at the Melbourne Art School under E. Phillip Fox. In 1897 Carter moved to Sydney with his family, then returned to Melbourne to study full time with assistance from his father before relocating to Sydney in 1903. He found occasional work as an illustrator for The Bulletin and the Sydney Mail and started getting commissions for portraits. He opened a studio first on the corner of George and Market Streets, then in Hunter Street and later at 76 Pitt Street. Carter gained recognition with a large portrait of artist Florence Rodway, also known as ‘A Low Toned Harmony’, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1913 where it won a bronze medal. In 1923 he was among Australian artists included in an exhibition at Burlington House, London. Although Carter never travelled abroad he had successful strands to his career, teacher, portrait painter and designer of stained glass which he continued to the 1950s, the decade before his death in 1963. A news report of his exhibition at Anthony Horden’s gallery in 1921 noted the wide range of art shown besides portraits, ‘landscapes, nude studies, imaginative subjects, designs for stained glass and murals, cartoons and decorations’.2

Established Artist and Teacher
Carter early developed a love of country life and nature, went sketching with John Hughes and spent periods sketching farm life. He continued painting rural scenes as well as scenes of Sydney and the harbour. He is better known for his portraiture for which he gained many commissions, an early one being to paint William Bligh for Government House in 1907. His portraits of academics, judges, politicians and other notables hang mainly in Sydney and Canberra. They include David Scott Mitchell at the Mitchell Library, philosopher Sir Francis Anderson at the University of Sydney and Sir Edmund Barton and William Morris Hughes at Parliament House, Canberra. He painted his brother Bryce, a noted cellist, and his violinist brother Frank Mowat. Carter was a finalist in the Archibald Prize a number of times. His failure to win did not dampen his enthusiasm; noting in 1937 that after fifteen years of trying, he was still hoping.3 Carter’s reputation was built on talent, earnestness and application and he immersed himself in the art world he inhabited.

In the early phase of his career Carter was influenced by the ‘low toned’ movement espoused by Max Meldrum who also studied at the National Art School in Melbourne. Meldrum placed tone above proportion and composition and his theories were followed by his devoted students. Carter was less purist, noting ‘His principles are good when applied with intelligence but his followers seem to be nothing more than slavish imitators of Meldrum and each other’.4 Contemporary news reports of Carter’s work note the tendency to formality and clarity in his portraiture and emphasis on finding the character of the sitter. His portrait of Howard Hinton OBE (1936) focuses on the subject’s face, hands and form against a dark background. His benign expression and manicured nails suggest the successful businessman and patron of Australian art. Captain P.G. Taylor (1940) is a figure in brown set out from a pale, atmospheric background. Outdoor subjects such as a beach at Austinmer (1927) and the Hunt Club (1930) employ lively brushstrokes reminiscent of E. Phillips Fox. Carter was reported as supporting Meldrum’s view that art should not be a mystery to the public and also that great art required as much perspiration as inspiration. He did not favour modernism in art, commenting on the 1940 Keith Murdoch modern exhibition that he ‘cannot see the “greatness’’ claimed for much of it’.5

Carter was also an exponent of mural painting which was viewed by him and others as an opportunity for Australian themes in architecture. The most prominent, nonetheless, are two panels with classical and modern philosophers for the philosophy lecture room at the University of Sydney to commemorate Professor Anderson.  They are signed and dated 1921 and have well drawn formally posed but relaxed figures and muted colouring. Proposed murals for the reading room of the Holme Building show an Australian riverscape and landscape. A large-scale mural for the Rural Bank in 1938, now in storage in the Powerhouse Museum, was based on numerous farm sketches. The following year he was one of artist Douglas Annand’s design team for the Australian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. The Maritime Services Board building, now the Museum of Contemporary Art, opened in 1952 with murals including one by Carter depicting the commercial section of the port. 

As early as 1911 Carter was appointed an instructor in painting at the Royal Art Society. He taught drawing and art history at the University of Sydney (1922-47) and was an instructor at the Sydney Technical College (1915-1940) where he was on the examining committee. He was a member of the Society of Artists, of which he became a vice-president in 1926, and a foundation member in 1937 of the Australian Academy of Art which lasted a decade. In 1920 he was a member of the War Memorials Advisory Board and in 1932 he was on the judging panel for the Sir John Sulman award for architecture. In yet another capacity he illustrated The Australian Alphabet (n.d.) with text by his friend Hugh McCrae. Carter contributed articles for Art in Australia on artists such as George Lambert in 1930. The 1935 edition contained an article on the manufacture of stained glass accompanied by some of his designs.6

Stained Glass Design and Manufacture

Carter both designed and made stained glass windows and designed windows which were made by two Sydney studios. The first of these was Frederick Tarrant’s. Carter met Tarrant at Hughes & Rogers where Tarrant was head journeyman painter and they became friends.7 Tarrant established a studio at 24 Taylor Street, Darlinghurst after working as Tarrant & Anderson in central Sydney. In 1928 Tarrant and Company was declared bankrupt and he died the following year. The second studio was P.O. Barnard’s Standard Glass Studio located at 183 Parramatta Road, Strathfield. Percy Barnard operated his studio with employees for over thirty years from around 1930.  Carter noted in 1938 that artist Harold Huntley assisted him at his and Barnard’s studio during the previous year and that he was also assisted by Joshua Smith.8 There were probably others.

Carter’s approach to the medium of stained glass was enthusiastic and practical, noting it to be ‘a kind of work which is full of possibilities and varying problems’ and that working in an applied art was ‘no different in the case of being able to speak in two different languages. One has to learn the idiom of each and work with an understanding of the limitations of both mediums’. Rather than attempt to translate his painting technique to stained glass he developed a style suited to the medium while retaining his focus on clarity of the subject for the viewer. Stained glass allowed scope for groups of figures rather than individual portraits and for subjects commemorating the two world wars and some historical themes connected with different churches. Although it has been noted that Carter, and other artists, were interested in establishing a more local iconography in art10, he often portrayed classical and medieval figures, pastoral scenes are confined to his painting and his use of local flora is limited. Australian subjects are depicted in the war memorial windows and windows depicting historical events and church history. Even so his approach remained conservative, for instance, a memorial window installed at Garden Island Chapel in 1936 has HMAS Sydney with a large figure of Britannia above. At the time Australian themes featured in paintings rather than murals or stained glass.11
Windows for Colleges and Schools
Although the use of stained glass had declined by the mid twentieth century memorial windows to the two world wars remained a source of work for designers and studios. Carter was reportedly busy with murals and stained glass in 1918 and there are World War I windows at King’s School Chapel, Parramatta, Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) Chapel, North Sydney and Wesley College Chapel, Sydney University. The extended and relocated King’s School Chapel has windows installed from c.1916 to c.1948 in the original chapel and war memorial extension. The moderately sized lancets, deeply recessed by the architects in view of the climate, are single, double and triple lancets. They show a progression of design approaches, techniques and colouring. Some of the earlier ones look to be made by Tarrant while the World War II windows look to be made by Carter.

Carter’s earliest figurative window is the triple lancet commemorating Stewart Milson c.1916. It shows Old Boys marching with the school crest below in the left light, Christ with a crown of thorns in the centre and an angel and AIF symbol below in the right. A triple lancet commemorating Reginald Buckland (1917) was designed by Carter and made by Tarrant. There are three single lancets from 1922 and a double lancet from 1922 and 1932. In the last of these a figure of David holding a staff and slingshot is the style favoured by Carter of heroic figures from classical or medieval times and mythology. Carter was invited by the school council to submit designs for the northern apse which were approved late in 1947.12  These  seven World War  II windows  depict  figures such as  St Michael, St George and King Arthur in uniformly brighter colours than the earlier windows. The device of including inspirational mythical figures rather than biblical proved controversial at the time.

A triple lancet above the baptismal font commemorating Bruce Arnott designed by Carter (1923)13 is Carter’s most traditional in its grouping of figures beneath architectural canopies and muted colours.

The commission for Shore Chapel came about after Carter learnt of the job from his friend architect B.J. Waterhouse.14 He was asked to prepare a complete scheme for the chapel windows. The nine 2-light memorial windows installed c.1918 show religious, medieval and classical figures in carefully arranged groups and naturalistic draughtsmanship. There is a more brilliantly coloured World War II window c.1945. Each window has a coat of arms and military insignia in the lower border. The historically significant window commemorating Captain Pockley MD who was killed at Gallipoli in 1915 includes a portrait of him as St Luke. Straight lead lines in some of the windows add an additional subtle layer to the design of the windows, a feature that continued in Carter’s work. Linear painting with scratched parallel lines to create texture and lighten dark areas of paint, seen in limited use in the World War I windows, is a prominent feature of his later work. Backgrounds have prominent foliage and bands of colour depicting sky beneath simple canopies which merge with the design.

Wesley College Chapel has two 2-light memorial windows dating from 1919 commemorating George Guthrie killed at Pozieres and Captain Edward Dawson killed at Lone Pine. Naturalistic figures include Moses with prominent religious insignia above and carefully detailed heraldic motifs below. Finely scratched texture is used on garments and faces, particularly hair. The central window with Christ and fishermen from 1919 commemorates the town of Stafford, UK, the home of the donor. It has an architectural canopy which references nineteenth century design. A nave window with Charles and John Wesley contrasts their dark garments with a richly coloured curtain and banded sky.
St Andrew’s College, Sydney University, has two sets of windows in the extended staircase which date from 1937. These were designed to complement the adjoining windows by Lyon, Cottier & Co. whose windows in the library from the 1870s are among their best work. Carter’s windows have roundels and barbed quatrefoils on a pale geometric background with floral motifs and borders. They depict classical figures, figures from English history and the Scottish Enlightenment. Australian subjects also feature: Captain Cook, Sydney Harbour Bridge and signing the Australian constitution at Federation which sits below the signing of the Magna Carta. Apart from Cook the subjects are shown smaller than the English and so emphasise the British connection. The decorative designs are enhanced by related motifs in the borders and well suit the architectural setting. The windows may have been made by P.O. Barnard.

Howard Hinton commissioned two windows for the Teachers’ College in Armidale, now the C.B. Newling Centre at the University of New England. One is on the theme of the glory of athletics (1935), the other on the theme of wisdom (1937). The design of both offsets the grid structure of the windows. The first has classical Greek athletes in a central barbed quatrefoil, medallions, half medallions and a lower border. The second has the imposing figure of Solomon in the central and top sections with coats of arms and religious insignia below, scholarly figures and angels in the side sections and banners and inscriptions extolling learning and faith. The window is signed ‘Designed and painted by Norman Carter’ and ‘Executed by Standard Glass Studios’. Colours are rich reds, blues and yellows against pale backgrounds. Crowns, fleur-de-lys, Tudor Roses, lion heads, the torch of knowledge and a crown and waratah border reference cultural ties.

Three windows made for the New England Girls School chapel were dedicated in 1941.
Windows for Churches

The earliest windows were made for Neutral Bay Presbyterian Church, now St John’s Uniting Church. Two lancet windows beside the altar are signed ‘Designed by Norman St Carter’ (sic) and ‘Painted by F.J. Tarrant, Darlinghurst 1917’. They have a seafaring theme to commemorate the long-term church elder Captain Robert Craig and his wife. A Viking ship in rough, swirling seas and in calm waters feature in the windows with a Presbyterian symbol and sea themed verse.

In the 1920s Carter designed the east window for Christ Church, Queanbeyan, made by Tarrant (1923), two windows for St James’ Church, Pitt Town, also made by Tarrant (1928), a large 3-light window for St Andrew’s Church, Longueville (1928) and a window for the Presbyterian Church, Narromine (1929). He redesigned a figure in one of the set of windows by English firm Heaton, Butler & Bayne for All Saints, Woollahra in 1926.15 His 2-light window in the Langley Chapel c.1934 depicts Christ and St John in vibrant colours. A triple lancet west window with angels beneath the same style canopies looks also to be Carter’s work.

Windows were designed for two historic Sydney Churches, St James Church, King Street and Garden Island Chapel. The 1930 semi-circular window above the entrance at St James depicts James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and their mother grouped around Jesus. There are prominent lead lines on their garments, profuse foliage and a blue banded sky. In addition to the window of HMAS Sydney a 1935 window at Garden Island Chapel depicts Christ walking on the waves with beams of light radiating from his halo, a design feature seen in other windows.

A memorial window to parishioners of the Congregational Church, Pitt Street (now Uniting Church), who died in World War I was unveiled in 1922.16 The window in the southern gallery has Christ and a kneeling armour clad soldier. A companion window in the northern gallery unveiled in 1926 when the church was renovated may also be by Carter. It has Christ as the Lamb of God wearing a robe with overall scratched texture beneath a canopy of heraldic dolphin-like heads and acanthus leaf tails above draped cloth.
The majority of windows in St John’s Uniting Church, Wahroonga, are by Carter. The imposing 3-light altar window installed when the church opened in 1930 was ‘designed by Norman Carter, and carried out under his supervision’; it is signed N. Carter and ‘painted by Tarrants’17. A World War I memorial window, the upper band has Christ with radiating beams of light flanked by figures representing Duty and Justice. Below to equal scale is the Last Supper and the heraldic lion, thistle and burning bush symbolising Scotland and Presbyterianism. Three World War II windows depict Gideon and Christ, both with swords, from 1948, Ezekiel and St John and a similarly designed Isaiah and St Peter, both from 1944. There are four windows commemorating men associated with the church c.1936-c.1946 and one to a couple c.1944. A large angel attractively suspended above the man and his wife is another design feature of Carter’s seen in smaller scale in other windows.

Another 1933 commemorative window has a seated and standing Christ in the left and right-hand lights with children holding flowers and fishermen in the foreground respectively in a characteristically precise composition. Prominently scratched texture is evident on the arms of the seated fisherman. The latest window, commemorating the donor, dates from c.1951. The brightly coloured St John’s windows have a sense of capturing a moment. This aspect of composition suggests photography was an influence on Carter’s designs.

Carter designed a 3-light altar window in the 1930s for Holy Trinity Church, Concord West. Christ in the central light is crowned and holds an orb and bible, flanked by saints David and Paul. Carter is shown painting this figure in the 1935 Art and Australia article. The crowned figure of Christ seen in a number of Carter’s windows lends an air of religious majesty. In 1934 a window was installed in St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Guyra adding to two earlier windows by Carter.

A World War I 3-light memorial window was reported to be designed for St Philip’s Church, Eastwood in 1933 and also a commemorative window to a young boy who is depicted as Samuel.18 While the latter window is recognisably Carter’s style the 3-light window is more traditional in its grouping of figures around the ascending Christ and the technique and colouring suggests another maker. A commemorative 2-light window at St John the Evangelist Church, Gordon from 1936 with Christ and is similar in style to those at St John’s, Wahroonga. A 2-light window and 3 lancet windows with the evangelists and Ezekiel in the same style can be attributed to Carter. In 1938 Carter noted that he had a commission ‘for small windows but chance of interesting job’ for St Michael’s Church, Vaucluse.19  Five lancet windows in the baptistery have figures with pale quarry backgrounds.

Carter’s design for an interesting 3-light window on a historical theme was shown in the Society of Artists exhibition in late 1931. Situated in the south transept of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, Drummoyne, it depicts the signing of the Scottish covenant in 1636 and was made by P.O. Barnard.20   The central light has the signing of the document with onlookers and a tartan clad man and woman and young boy in the foreground in the right and left lights. These presumably represent the Howie family that the window commemorates. A finely detailed Scottish royal coat of arms is in the lower central light with an inscription and St Andrew’s cross at the top and a quatrefoil tracery window.  Warm dark tones with yellow, white and blue highlights require close inspection to see detailing on garments, particularly cross hatching on tartan and luxuriant patterning on brocade.

Based on style the 3-light window opposite in the north transept is by Carter. The window was unveiled by Sir Thomas and Lady Henley in 1932 in memory of their son Captain Harold Henley who died at Pozieres in 1916.21 The central light has Christ above two angels flanking a kneeling knight in armour.  Saints are in the right and left lights with scenes and motifs relating to the AIF and angels in the lower band.

Berry Methodist Church (now Uniting Church) opened in 1932 with a 3-light window commemorating World War I, five triple commemorative windows and a small porch window by Norman Carter.22 A large figure of St Michael has a commanding presence in the war memorial window with religious symbols on a pale yellow and green antique cathedral glass background. The triple light windows have Christ and saints with the same pale side lights. A similar design approach is in the small chapel at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown built in the 1950s with windows by John Hardman & Co. The original mortuary was extended in 1941 with a viewing room adjoining the present chapel. A 3-light window with crowned Christ holding an orb and another opposite with the hospital coat of arms and crown are recognisably Carter’s style. The side lights of amber glass add a feeling of warmth to the viewing room.

The largest window designed by Carter is at heritage listed St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Macquarie Street which opened in 1935. Three previous Presbyterian churches preceded it and the windows by Lyon, Cottier & Co. from the Phillip Street church were relocated in Ferguson Hall adjacent to the present church. The 7-light altar (west) window with tracery, the Armstrong window, was designed by Carter and made by Standard Glass Studio (P.O. Barnard). It dates from 1936. The most notable feature is the clear soft colouring, including yellow and green, with deeper red and blue on garments of the three central figures, Christ flanked by Faith and Hope. Eight more figures on either side include Moses, David, St Stephen and St Paul. All have strongly outlined facial features.  Above the figures are angels, the rainbow of promise, religious symbols and the burning bush and shield of the Presbyterian Church in the lower centre. The overall design of large-scale figures with touches of foliage and sky using small pieces of glass within the lead lines produces a mosaic like effect. A 5-light window with amber quarries opposite complements the yellow tones of the main window.

The north and south walls have five tall 2-light windows each with biblical scenes and heraldic arms in barbed roundels and roundels on clear quarries with blue borders. The darker colouring and technique suggests they were also made by Carter. They date from 1936 to 1954.

A 2-light window in the southern staircase c.1939 depicts St Andrew and St Mark with below Iona Abbey and Flynn Memorial Church, Alice Springs. These churches have Australian wildflowers with the Scottish thistle and Sturt’s desert pea as local reference. They also look to be by Carter.

A 2-light window which in the Bathurst Presbyterian Church commemorating the parents of Elizabeth Chifley, wife of Prime Minister Ben Chifley, was donated and unveiled by Mrs Chifley in 1949.23  Depicted are St Andrew and St Columba with below the original St Stephen’s church and the Abbey of Iona and above the Scottish coat of arms as seen at Drummoyne.  Adjacent is a 3-light window (1954) commemorating World War II which shows servicemen and women below the figure of Christ and angels, a theme also seen in a window at the Presbyterian Church, Canberra.

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Canberra has two large 4-light windows in the transepts. The Resurrection window, a memorial to the service men and women who died in World War I, was installed in the Warrior’s Chapel in 1948. In the lower section figures from the armed forces are seated, some seen back view, and standing looking upward at Christ flanked by angels and religious symbols in the upper section. More angels and coats of arms are in the eight vertical tracery windows with small tracery above. There is an effective gradation of colouring from brown and dark blue uniforms to yellow, pink, green and blues of the figures above and paler tones in the tracery windows. The treatment of this vibrant window points to P.O. Barnard. Carter reputedly based one figure on Colonel M.J. Holmes, Chief Medical Officer, Commonwealth Military Forces.

The 4-light Redemption window opposite installed in 1950 has an overall pattern and colouring more akin to the window at St Stephen’s, Macquarie Street, though incorporating deeper tones. Scenes from Christ’s life from birth to resurrection occupy most of the lower section with angels and symbols above. The vertical traceries have the rainbow, symbols of the Evangelists, the New Jerusalem and angels with more symbols. The arrangement of figures in bands and a decorative border at the bottom reference traditional design. This window looks to have been made by Carter. A 5-light window with amber quarries opposite complements the yellow tones of the main window. A figurative design by Carter intended for this window can be seen on the stairway.

Two trefoil cusped windows in the Warrior’s Chapel depicting St Michael and St Gabriel (1951) are Carter’s designs.24 A third with a cross and poppies bordered by waratahs (1949) commemorates the church’s first minister, Rev Dr John Walker. Beside the chapel a 3-light window above the pulpit is  Carter’s last window made for the church depicting Moses, Christ and St Paul with angels (1953).25

Carter’s last war memorial window, along with a memorial window to a member of the church’s founding family, was made for the Church of St Luke, Dapto (1954). Carter’s colleague, Melbourne based painter and stained glass designer M. Napier Waller was also known for war memorial windows, particularly those at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra completed in 1958. Carter and Waller met as fellow artists entering the Archibald Prize and maintained correspondence over 20 years.26  Stained glass artist and restorer Kevin Little and stained glass artist Mark B. Hill installed Carter’s windows at St Andrew’s Church while working for P.O. Barnard.27
Windows for Cathedrals
The original All Saints Cathedral at Bathurst was designed by Edmund Blacket as a parish church. Its condition deteriorated and new sections were constructed in the 1920s. The present cathedral was opened in 1971 following demolition of the existing Blacket building. It retains the original windows by Lyon, Cottier & Co. in the corners of the hexagonal navel, in the chapter house and ambulatory.
The Warrior’s Chapel, opened in 1927, was meant to have windows by Melbourne artist William Montgomery who died that year after completing the Te Deum window for the nave and the Crucifixion and St Michael and St George (heroes of battle) for the chapel. The ‘Heroes’ series in the Warrior’s Chapel was subsequently completed by Carter. Three double windows depict St Paul and St Cranmer (heroes of truth), Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell (heroes of humanity), Captain Cook and the explorers crossing the Blue Mountains (heroes of the lonely way). Carter supervised their installation in early 1930 and was present for the dedication.28 The inclusion of nurses renowned for their humanitarian role in wartime brings a gentler focus to the war memorial genre. The two explorers are shown with a rifle, axe, swag and lean dog with Christmas bells and waratahs amid Carter’s usual lush vegetation.  The figures, including saints, are naturalistically portrayed probably to  avoid introducing a another stylistic element into a series begun by another leading artist also known for his painting.
Clerestory windows  were made for St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, over several decades from the 1930s and St Saviour’s Cathedral, Goulburn in the 1940s. The elaborate interior of the Anglican Cathedral at Goulburn has English and Australian windows installed over several decades from the 1880s. Carter’s 2-light window on the theme of Suffer the children to come unto me was installed in 1942 and two narrative windows on the development of the English bible in 1944. The figures are tightly grouped with large size inscriptions denoting key figures in the narrative windows: Venerable Bede, Wycliffe, Coverdale and King James. The strong pattern of lead lines and vertical and diagonal folds of garments adds boldness to these windows.

Eight 3-light clerestory windows with tracery were installed in  St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, beginning with two in 1945 and finishing with a window replacing one by Ashwin & Falconer in 1956. Subjects are the first church service in the colony, missionary work to indigenous people in the colony, New Guinea, Norfolk Island; Chinese students and Tanganyika clergy; and Bishop Broughton’s centenary. The figures are grouped to indicate the work of the mission with heraldic lower borders containing coats of arms of the country, cities, universities, Anglican sees and bishops. A religious symbol above the central figure, elegant angels and lush foliage complete the design and the border patterns suggest the cultures depicted. The window depicting the Rev Richard Johnson preaching the first service in the colony in the presence of Governor Phillip includes the rainbow of promise and a local reference in the waratahs.

The lead lines and small pieces of glass give the windows a mosaic appearance which is more pronounced than at St Stephen’s, Macquarie Street due to their brilliant colouring, particularly scarlet, bright green, gold and cobalt blue. White in the lower border and in some garments adds to the mosaic effect. In one respect there is a reflection of Carter’s background as a painter in these as in his other windows; it is that the treatment rather than the effect of light through the glass gives the windows their vibrancy.

As with his painting Carter’s approach to stained glass work was straightforward and unambiguous. ‘Good art’, he commented in 1939, ‘must be such that ordinary people can take an intelligent pleasure in it…In its highest manifestations art may sometimes seem mysterious, but since it has been done by the hand of man, the brain of man must be able to comprehend it.’29  Although known primarily as a fashionable portrait painter, Carter’s work as one of the foremost Australian stained glass artists of the twentieth century is more widely accessible than his painting and demonstrates equal dedication and artistic skill.


1 Norman Carter, Notes Prepared for an Autobiography, State Library of NSW, MLMSS 471/5 (CY2547), p.17.

2 Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June 1921, p.14.

3 Norman Carter Papers 1899-1961, State Library of NSW, MLMSS 471, Box 4/Item 1.

4 Carter, Notes for an Autobiography, p.13.

5 Carter Papers.

6 Stained Glass Work in Sydney, Art and Australia, February 15th, 1935.

7 Carter, Notes for an Autobiography, p.19.

8 Carter Papers. Huntley is spelled Huntly.

9 Carter, Notes for an Autobiography, p.51.

10 Jenny Zimmer (1984), Stained Glass in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, p.114. 

11 A news report in 1940 noted that although Australian artists had attempted to introduce Australian themes in architectural settings their use remained limited due to lack of interest by clients and the public. SMH, 16 November 1940, p.9.

12 P.J. Yeend in association with The King’s School Archive (1972), A Short Account of The King’s School Chapel, p.10.

13 Yeend, p.14.  King’s Archives dates the Arnott window as 1923 and the Milson window as after August 1915, before 1917.

14 Carter, Notes for an Autobiography, p.51.

15 Watchman, 29 April 1926, p.8.

16 SMH, 13 November 1922, p.10.

17 SMH, 6 May 1930, p.9. Although Tarrant’s firm closed in mid-1928 he was reported later as working with Carter for windows at St James, Pitt Town.

18 SMH, 24 October 1933, p.7.

19 Carter Papers.

20 The Australasian, 12 September 1931, p.11.

21 SMH, 25 April 1932, p.6.

22 SMH, 15 November 1932, p.6.

23 National Advocate, 14 November 1949, p.2.

24 Canberra Times, 9 November 1951, p.4.

25 Canberra Times, 10 December 1953, p.2.

26 Susan E.M. Kellett (2016), Australia’s Martial Madonna: the army nurse’s commemoration in stained glass windows (1919-1951), PhD thesis, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, The University of Queensland.

27 Phone conversation with Kevin Little 16 March 2017.

28 National Advocate, 1 February 1930, p.7.

29 The Evening News, 18 February 1939, p.3.
Karla Whitmore 2017

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6 comments on “Artist on Canvas and Glass: the Stained Glass Work of Norman Carter

  1. Just finding out about Norman StClair Carter. I have two large watercolour paintings of his. I suspect my grandfather knew him. as I note he did some landscapes in Cobbity and my grandfather was in Camden and a Stock & Station Agent

    • Hi Anna-Jane,
      Glad you found something of interest here on my website.
      Those watercolours your grandfather had by Carter could be quite valuable I would think.


  2. Pingback: A Study in Brown – Part Five – What do the Newspapers have to say? | The Reluctant Retiree

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