The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, led the dedication of the Craigie Aitchison Memorial Window at an Ascension Day Service at St Mary The Boltons in Chelsea on Thursday 17th of May.
The window, Crucifixion 2008: A Memorial Window, was created by the stained glass artist, Neil Phillips, following a design Craigie set out for stained glass. Craigie had been planning a collaboration to produce a window for the church at the time of his death in 2009 and the finished piece is a fitting testament to his huge achievements as an artist. Among those who gathered for the dedication were the Deputy Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Elizabeth Rutherford, and the President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun.
The window was to have been Craigie’s first stained glass window in a London church, the city where he had lived and worked for almost the whole of his adult life. The project was initiated through Craigie’s friend and champion, Edwina Sassoon, who is a parishioner at St Mary The Boltons. Though Craigie sadly died during the discussions, the executor of his estate gave permission for the design to be adapted by Neil Philips after Craigie’s death, in recognition of his enthusiasm about creating an artwork for St. Mary’s. The window now stands in his memory for visitors to enjoy.
Stained glass was to have been a new medium for Craigie and his enthusiasm at its possibilities is realised in this piece. The subject of the window is the Crucifixion, a frequent theme of Craigie’s work, and incorporates familiar motifs such as his customary star, the Italian Cypress tree inspired by his second home in Montecastelli, and his beloved Bedlington Terrier. The tree and dog act as Christ’s comforters in his final agony on the Cross.
Neil Phillips, the stained glass artist who completed Crucifixion 2008, said:
“I think we’ve really stuck to the plan and painted as best we can, trying to stand in the shoes of Craigie Aitchison. He was terribly excited about it, discovering a new art form that really did lend itself greatly to the way he painted.”
The Revd Ginny Thomas, Vicar of St Mary The Boltons said:
“The window is a moving, timeless and unique interpretation of the Crucifixion, which always elicits a response. It is a significant addition to St Mary’s.”