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Alf Webster: Glasgow’s Lost Genius

By on October 5, 2015

The story of remarkable Glasgow artist and craftsman Alf Webster  – whose life was cut short by the  First World War – is the focus of a special conference next month.

Alf Webster: Glasgow’s Lost Genius will be held in the former Lansdowne church – once adorned by his stained glass windows and now his namesake theatre Webster’s – at Kelvinbridge on Friday, November 6.

Organised by Glasgow City Heritage Trust, this conference is part of the Glasgow’s Gilded Age, a new movement and project celebrating a vibrant period in the city from 1864-1914.

The Trust say: “We believe this conference is crucial to the promotion of Glasgow as a world city and that through it we will be celebrating its vibrant artistic and industrial history, encouraging academic study of the period, and promoting the city as a place for cultural and historic tourism.”

In 1903, Webster registered for evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art and took a variety of courses. The skills he learned during life drawing classes would later transfer into his windows, Webster became well-known for his ability to create incredibly detailed and emotive human faces in his work.

Webster’s career was drastically cut short by the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Just one month after the birth of his third son, also named Alfred, Webster become the 2nd Lieutenant of the 3rd (reserve) Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders based at the Aberdeen city garrison.

He was shipped to the front lines in France in May 1915, after just three months training. Webster sustained serious injuries on patrol duty on the night of August 16, 1915, and despite 10 operations he died of his wounds on the August 24, 1915.

The Trust adds: “Through the study and celebration of Webster’s life and artistic output, we aim to give him the recognition he deserves as an important artist and craftsman. His life also allows us discuss a range of wider topics including Scottish war art, ecclesiastical architecture and 19th century stained glass design and conservation.”

Alf Webster: Glasgow’s Lost Genius speakers include:

Professor John Hume OBE, BSc ARCST, Hon FRIAS, FSA Scot; Chairman of the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments, Patron of GCHT, and life-long supporter of Glasgow’s industrial and artistic heritage, will be speaking about the architect John Honeyman.

Professor Robin Webster OBE is a partner in the Glasgow firm of Cameron Webster Architects, and professor emeritus at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, where he was head of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture for twenty years. He is Secretary of the Walmer Crescent Association, Chairman of The Alexander Thomson Society and a trustee of the Scottish Stained Glass Symposium. Robin will be talking about the stylistic differences between his father’s designs (Gordon Webster) and his grandfather’s (Alf Webster).

Dr Patricia R. Andrew FSA, FSAScot, AMA, FRSA, whose career has been mainly in museums and galleries in Scotland and England, is now a freelance consultant, researcher and lecturer. She has written many exhibition catalogues and has published widely on varied art-historical topics from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Following research undertaken for her recent book, A Chasm in Time: Scottish War Art and Artists of the Twentieth Century, she is continuing to work on some of its artists, re-evaluating their contribution and giving them a more deserved recognition.

Dr George Rawson, fine art and design librarian at the Glasgow School of Art 1977-2006 is an art historian with a special interest in 19th century British art education the Glasgow Style and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Gordon R Urquhart is the Postgraduate Course Director with Historic Environment Scotland. Gordon is the author of A Notable Ornament:Lansdowne Church – an icon of Victorian Glasgow.

Alf Webster: Glasgow’s Lost Genius is on November 6, 9am-5pm, students. Tickets are £40 and £20 for students. For more information see

And see our story from last year, by Ruth Allen, Alfred Webster’s Great Legacy at Lansdowne



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