This day school considers the rise of glass-working from craft to art, exploring the mysteries, tracing the evolution of techniques and technology, and celebrating the spectacular masterpieces.
Glass is one of the oldest human-made materials and certainly the most mysterious. It is also dangerous, difficult to work and beautiful, a combination fascinating to craftspeople, artists and collectors throughout history.
The beginnings of the shift of glass-working from craft to art are intimately linked to the rise of Art Nouveau in the 19th century: artists including Émile Gallé and Louis Comfort Tiffany challenged all expectations of glass as a medium, both through hand-crafted, unique creations and in factory-made designs which raised standards of commercial production to make good glass more generally available.
In the inter-war period glass art was central to the style known as Art Deco: René Lalique’s perfume bottles, vases, lamps, car mascots and interior decoration brought glass to an ever-growing market, while firms such as Sabino produced imitations at affordable prices. Daum Frères perfected the art of modelling in pâte-de-verre glass and Maurice Marinot pioneered the concept of the individual glassworker producing unique pieces without the support of a team. The period also saw the rise of the great Scandinavian glass companies: Orrefors and Kosta in Sweden, Iitala and Nuutajårvi in Finland, pioneering a range of techniques within an aesthetic informed by nature in the North.
Today the names of the masters of Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass have become familiar far beyond the narrow circles of collecting and curating; glass art is all around us, mysterious and alluring.