'Heavenly Lights - The Untold Story of Stained Glass Artist Margaret Agnes Rope'

A major new exhibition telling the untold story of one of the great female artists of the early twentieth century comes to Shrewsbury this autumn.

Margaret Agnes Rope, born in 1882, produced stained-glass that can be found in churches and cathedrals on three continents, and which is now also collected by American museums – but she is now largely forgotten here in the UK, and even in her home town of Shrewsbury.

Now an exhibition of her work will be staged at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery from 12 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.

‘Marga’, as she was called, was an instinctive rebel – known for smoking cheroot cigars, riding a motorbike and wearing her hair short – in an era when women were largely suppressed. Without backing from a patron, rich family or husband, she made her own way in her career, one of a new generation of artists as much at home in a workshop as in a drawing-studio.

Her work – influenced by the ‘Later Arts & Crafts’ style – soon became well-known for its jewelled dazzling colours, its personal stamp, its startling modernism, and its sense of spiritual vibrancy.

Yet, within barely a decade of her first success, she chose to become a Catholic nun, moving into an ‘enclosed’ convent. However, even now, shut away from the world, she continued to work, in a small studio provided by the other nuns.

An intensely private person, she left barely any records behind her, and even asked that some of her remaining works be destroyed after her death. Art historians, perhaps frustrated by this lack of information, have since marginalised her achievements.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery has sought to right this wrong by creating a special project, formed by a group of volunteer archivists, not only to re-research her life and works, but to mount a major exhibition bringing together works and artefacts from all over the country. Many of these works have never been seen in public before. A state of the art projection system will screen giant images of her finest stained-glass windows.

The exhibition is closed on Mondays from 1st October and Sunday opening hours are 11am to 3pm. Other days open 10am to 4.30pm.

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