Exploring the Sacred

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Beholding the Sacred

The Emil Frei Company, founded in 1898, is one of the most recognized stained-glass production studios of the Midwest United States; their work is found in over one thousand churches in the United States and beyond.  To this day, the company is under the care of the Frei family and continues to produce art of superior artistic merit.  The Studio is best known for its mid-century designs (the mid-1930s to the late 1960s), despite a prodigious ability to produce stained glass in a variety of styles.  One thing is sure, the company's stained glass has always commanded high respect for its artistry, craftsmanship, and integration with architecture. 
The company’s success is attributed to its ability to adapt and serve the needs of the faithful within the space and time.  In the burgeoning post-WWII expansion of church architecture and experimentation with modern style, the company, under the watch of Emil Frei Jr.,  “experienced a remarkable growth in artistic scope and creativity; consequently, it became a pioneer in the field of modern liturgical art. He recognized that creating one style of windows, no matter how expertly done, would eventually lead to a stale reaction to the art. The challenge, as he saw it, wasn’t to create something merely beautiful and edifying, but something personally meaningful and spiritually provocative, a work that would constantly beckon the individual to return and contemplate.” (source: www.emilfrei.com)

Emil Frei Jr. and Robert Harmon together created the style the studio would become famous for and trail blazed the modern stained-glass movement and achieved acclaim on a national level, including from Time Magazine.  

The visual style developed by Harmon and Frei would carry into numerous designs by multiple artists working with the company. Many recurring elements make it instantly identifiable, such as:

  • A flattened sense of perspective
  • Stylized human figures, with brows and noses that are a single continuous heavy line; large, dark eyes; long, geometric fingers and hands; and heads that tilt and bend without any stretching or bending of the neck
  • Curving, colored swirls of patterns as backgrounds
  • Intensely decorated letters in a variety of original fonts.
  • Highly stylized Christian imagery, such as triangular communion grapes and shield motifs in the shape of inverted parabolas.

The Emil Frei Studio's work further increases in stature when placed it alongside its contemporary competitors.  

Today the company is in its fourth generation, led by Stephen Frei, and continues producing windows for churches across the country.

Emil Frei Studios

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