While completing the windows in the church, La Farge perfected his technique for the manufacture of opalescent glass. He secured the patent the same month he received the Newport Congregational Church commission. This development brought on a revival of architectural stained glass that would profoundly influence the work of artists such as Louis Comfort Tiffany. Through the use of advancing and receding colors illuminated by the carefully controlled light of the opalescent glass windows, La Farge transformed the plain, but generous spaces of NCC’s Romanesque church into a comprehensively-designed space.
La Farge’s North Windows in the sanctuary differed from his windows on the southern exposure. Where sunlight came in directly, he used opalescent glass that softened this source of light through more opaque, darkly-tinged glass. The north-facing windows, such as shown in the photograph below, were lighter, freer in expression of color and light-seeking by comparison.
La Farge believed that “some part of a window should be united in appearance with the wall, so that it shall have a structural look as part of the wall. When that is done, instead of having a design that shall go wobbling all over the window, there may be clear spaces which let in the light and recall the open air.” He thought many congregations would appreciate the “clear light” thus admitted in this way versus light “filtered through parti-colored glass, as is commonly done.” In 1887, looking back on his experience decorating Newport Congregational, La Farge despaired that even he could no longer find the kind of glass he used…and so cheaply used…in his design. Said he:
I couldn’t do it again…because it [transparent “cheap” glass] isn’t made [now]….manufacturers are making their glass for the Western market [with] colors [that are] shiny and disagreeable….Today it would take six months to get the glass for such windows as I have described, because it would have to be specially made.”