1st December 2023

Reverse Glass Painting. C.Dowson.

glass painting

Reverse Glass Painting.
(or Reverse Painting on Glass).

reverse glass painting

This is a special page on glasspainting.co.uk all about the art of “Reverse Glasspainting”. We would like to credit and thank Mr Charles Dowson who has supplied all the information and pictures on this page. It is his enthusiasm which has brought this fantastic area of work to our attention.

Reverse Glass Painting
Reverse Glass Painting


We have no conclusive knowledge about the origin of Glass Painting. Some claim that the art of painting on the back of glass goes back to the 4th century A.D. Its birthplace may have been in Egypt or Byzantium. However the technique was used in Italy in the Middle Ages, the process was also known in France and England. From the 14th century it was used in Germany. From the 16th century it was mass- produced in Italy, especially in Murano near Venice. It was used to decorate glass for religious objects and panels for chapels with angels and saints, as the sunlight strikes the panels it creates a unique glowing image, not seen in conventional paintings.

From the 17th century under-glass paintings became popular with landscapes, genre-paintings, portraits, etc. It was also customary to copy work of famous masters. Paintings by Hans Memlinc, Botticelli, Rubens, Van Dijck, and many others. In the 18th century painters such as Thomas Gainsborough produced under-glass paintings for peep shows. Some of them are displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

How I came to do it.


Reverse Glass Painting
Reverse Glass Painting.

I first became interested in this type of art in 1958, when looking in an antique shop. On seeing a painting in the window that had a particular brilliance to it. I had to go in and enquire about it. The shopkeeper told me that it was a very old painting done on glass but painted in reverse and this type of art was not done anymore. I got a good Idea from the shopkeeper of the skills that were required to paint in this fashion, and some history of this art. Also that it hadn’t been done for at least 150years. So a …..CHALLENGE….

Reverse Glass Painting.
Reverse Glass Painting.

I went home that day quite exited about this OLD ART THAT I WAS GOING TO REDISCOVER. It was not an easy task, it took 6 months before I could think backwards, learn to write backwards, as everything had to be in reverse order. The light in the eye had to go in before the pupil, then the pupil before the white, the white before the eye itself. Don’t forget the eyelashes had to be put in somewhere so as to look as if they are in front of it all.

Mistakes are not allowed, everything must be perfect from start to finish, or start again. You then see the difficulty in building a picture in this manner, not easy. Continue until you complete your figure, then the background reversing the clouds so they are in front of the blue sky, also shading is in the opposite side. At times I thought I would never master it. But I stuck at it, and I have now introduced new techniques and different types of paint, different types of glass and many other ways of getting the best from this type of art.



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