Built St. Louis > > MidCentury Modernism > > Emil Frei Stained Glass > > St. Marks Episcopal Church

St. Marks Episcopal Church
4712 Clifton Avenue - South City
Architect: Nagel & Dunn, 1939
Stained Glass: Emil Frei Company; designs by Robert Harmon

In a time when nobody was building anything, when historicist revival was waning but still alive, and Modernism was still a radical style on the fringes of popular design, a small congregation on the south side of the city was convinced by architect Charles Nagel (aided no doubt by the limitations of budget) to erect this boldly contemporary church. Simple, direct, unadorned, and raw, St. Mark's Episcopal Church was and is a landmark building, unlike anything the city had seen, and a rarity for its time. It would become the precedent for a whole generation of church buildings in the 1950s.

Widely hailed for its superb and uncompromising Modernism, St. Marks was completed on an astonishingly small budget of $75,000.

The serene, spare interior features stunning stained glass windows in shades of blue and purple, an early commission for prolific artist Robert Harmon, working with the Emil Frei company.

The window designs exhibit a prototypical version of the style that the Emil Frei company would develop through the 1950s and 1960s. Features which would be refined and repeated in future compositions include the flattened visual style of the faces and bodies, the simplied design of the figures, geometric shapes both as background design and as elements of the figures, highly stylized lettering, and a muted, restricted color pallette. The Art Deco influences would reverberate through the Frei company's work for another thirty years.

Frederick Dunn and Robert Harmon would team up again ten years later for Faith Salem Church in north county.

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