Howard Martin Otho Travers (1886-1948) was one of the most significant stained glass artists and church furnishers of the first half of the 20th century. He was educated at Tonbridge School before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. At the RCA he took classes in stained glass painting by Christopher Whall, although he would subsequently reject much Arts & Crafts thinking. After completing his training he spent some time in the office of Ninian Comper, before setting up on his own account. Although Comper’s influence is evident in some early windows, Travers own style was markedly different. There is a careful depiction of the subject along with a vitality that others of his generation lack. A traditionalist in many way, especially in his rejection of any form of abstraction, he was nonetheless not bound by tradition, but used it as a base from which to move forward.
Travers had his own studio, but also used the facilities of Lowndes & Drury throughout his career.
While admired by his pupils, Travers’ work is rarely found in high profile locations, although there were signs that his neglect by the Establishment was ending by the time of his untimely death. This may have reflected his personal life (for example, he was a conscientious objector during the First World War) and association in the public mind with Anglo-Catholicism, although he had largely lost his faith, and his first wife was a divorcee, who remarried while her husband was still alive. That association produced many works associated with the ‘Back to Baroque’ movement within the Church of England, which had started around 1911, although he also designed more widely.
Martin Travers was an important teacher both through his work at the RCA and through those who worked with him. They included Joseph E Nuttgens (c.1920–1922), Francis Spear (1922–24), John E Crawford (1924–1948), and Lawrence Lee (1946–1948). The latter two would go on to complete the commissions outstanding at the time of his death. One of his students, Francis Stephens , commented “He was a fantastic teacher. He concentrated on the idea of the structure of the window, the bars and leading, so that the work when finished was a true construction, not a painting transferred to glass.”
Martin Travers His Life and work by Michael Yelton (Spire Books, 2016)
Martin Travers 1886-1948 – A Handlist of his Work by Peter E Blagdon-Gamlen (The Ecclesiological Society, 1997)