The James A. Garfield window, designed by artist and writer John LaFarge, has hung in Thompson Chapel since the building’s dedication in 1905. LaFarge was known for his vibrant use of color and is often credited as an inventor of opalescent glass. As the Williams College Museum of Art’s American art curator Kevin Murphy notes, the small window includes much of LaFarge’s innovations in stained glass, particularly the “graduations of jewel-like color and opalescent effects.” He adds that the warm glow of the window contrasts with the glass in Thompson Chapel’s other nave, transept, and choir windows, which largely feature cooler colors of more English-style glass.
The Garfield window, made by Tiffany Co., depicts Moses viewing the Promised Land from Mount Pisgah. Working at the turn of the 19th century, LaFarge attempted to “recreate the feeling of medieval stained glass and achieves it in miniature with the rose window above the two figures,” says Murphy. Below the window, there is a medallion portrait of Garfield and a memorializing inscription that speaks of Garfield’s many services to the country. Garfield’s friend Cyrus W. Field originally commissioned the window for the Old Chapel (now Goodrich Hall), where it hung until its relocation to the south wall of Thompson’s west transept. Today, Thompson Chapel is a multi-faith facility, which the Chaplains’ Office calls, “a sanctuary, a refuge for all journeys of the spirit, a home for the prayers of all who long for hope and peace.”
James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, graduated from Williams College in 1856.
By Cecilia Denhard ’15