Albinas (Albin) Elskus was born Aug. 21, 1926 in Kaunas, Lithuania. When Russia invaded Lithuania in 1944, he and many other art students fled to Germany to avoid conscription into the Russian army. As a refugee in Germany he studied architecture in Darmstadt and painting at the Ecoles des Arts et Metiers in Freiburg. He emigrated to Chicago in 1949 and apprenticed at the Hackert Stained Glass Studio for a starting pay of 90 cents per hour.
In Chicago, Albin met and dated Anna Mary Crewdson who was working at a settlement house in the Lithuanian neighborhood. In 1952 Albin traveled to Paris to study art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. By this time he was designing stained glass windows for Hackett and they sent work for him which covered expenses. While in Paris he was joined by Ann, who was already in Europe, and they married. Returning to the United States in 1953, they settled in New York City where Albin worked with famed stained glass artist John Gordon Guthrie at the George Durhan and Son Stained Glass Studio. Albin was hired after producing a full scale drawing from a deliberately vague window sketch drawn on a paper bag by their head designer. When Guthrie saw his completed drawing he immediately said “Hire him!”
Over a career that spanned 50 years, Albin produced many works of stained glass that can be found in churches and other institutions throughout the United States and Europe. In Maine he created windows for Notre Dame de Lourdes in Skowhegan, Holy Family Church in Lewiston, and Miles Hospital Chapel and Coves Edge Chapel in Damariscotta. He received numerous awards and recognitions, culminating in a Stained Glass Association of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, and the SGAA’s President’s Award in 2006. His book “The Art of Painting on Glass,” published by Scribner’s in 1980, is still sought after.
Albin was also an exceptional water-colorist and draftsman, and exhibited watercolors, drawings and stained glass in one-man and group shows around the United States.
He loved to teach and conducted workshops for more than 20 years around the United States, including at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine and Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. He taught for many years at the Parsons School of Design in New York City and Fordham University in the Bronx. He was also an avid photographer and sailor, having once sailed across the Atlantic to Ireland with friend and playwright Dean Fuller in a 31-foot sloop.