French Glass Artist of the Late 19th Century
The 1800s gave birth to more glass artists such as the very renowned and accomplished glass artist, René Lalique. He started out in 1881 as a freelancer. He worked in jewelry. His most absorbing pastimes were with three-dimensional art objects for decoration.
The Art Nouveau style vases he crafted along with perfume bottles, decanters and other cooking vessels were highly pleasing to see with reliefs of animal scenes, greenery and scenes of the forest. He created molds to reproduce these art objects for mass consumption of art lovers.
Coty Perfume Designer Bottles
Other items of Lalique were stemware, clocks, light fixtures, and items for the dining table. His more popular and world famous works were created in the year, 1902. From his studio and glass foundry, Clairfountaine on the outskirts of Paris, he created the moulded glass objects that were made using the lost wax process from jewelry making.
Francois Coty was one of Lalique’s first major clients. He was to become one of the most successful perfume vendors. Lalique designed sixteen different perfume bottles for Coty to sell his upscale designer perfumes on New York’s Fifth Avenue. They are still being sold today in these famous bottles that were designed for marketing in 1910.
Successful Glassworks of Combs-la-Ville
The demand was so good for the Coty perfume bottles that Lalique designed that he moved into the new Foundry, Combs-la-Ville, to continue onward with his fine glass works. He purchased the foundry with no loans. There the works were made with abundant, silica-rich, sands. Many artisan glass workers flocked to this special place to learn and work with Lalique. Lalique continued to further refine his processes leaving out lead, a common material in glass blowing. He used demi-crystals because they were less costly and easier to work with.
The perfume industry loved Lalique’s design for their fragrances. Other big names such as d’Orsay and Roger et Gallet also purchased his bottles and Lalique garnered more notoriety for his famous tiara stoppers that topped these bottles like a crown. The crowns were very attractive to the perfume shoppers and many bottles were sold. Lalique enjoyed being the creator of such beautiful containers that he designed some of his own for his own enjoyment called the Tantot and the Amphitrite.
From Bottles to Lovebirds
With the great successes of the perfume bottles, the new ideas flit about in the mind of Lalique and out of Combs-la-Ville bottle factory came some lovely sculptures and limited designs of vases. The more well-known are the pairs of parakeets and the captivating forms of lovebirds. This motif became his signature as he used it throughout his illustrious career.
The City of Waterways
Gondolas bring to mind the Venetian times of the Holy Roman Empire. Molded glass works were inspirational to adorn many structures to remind the masses of their duty to God. Even the bathhouses had molded glassworks to give the clients light by which to bathe. Glassmakers thrived in the cities of Byzantium and other Roman metropolises. These works were found as far back as the 8th Century as documented by a successful archeological study in 1960 where in discovery the glass kilns had been unearthed.
Restrictive Glassmaker Regulations
The masons of glass or the Glassmakers Guild was a major industrial class with standards for the craftsmen to follow. This was a part of the economic strata of the 1200s when very refined objects of glass art were made. There was a reason for the existence of the Guild and it was rather secretive for the sake they said of keeping their precious formulas under wraps. This was for preservation of the trade. No employment of foreign workers was allowed and no importation of foreign glass was allowed either.
The practice of glass production isolationism grew even more restrictive in 1291 when all glass making was ordered to be moved to Murano from Venice. The excuse was to mitigate the risk of setting fire to the mainly wooden architecture in Venice. The truth was that the Guild meant to prohibit and hinder any glass trade secrets from leaking out to anyone or anywhere.
Things got even worse for glassmakers as they were soon to be confined to living in Murano and not leaving the city limits in 1295. The tradesmen were not to suffer completely as they were highly respected as some of the highest paid tradesmen of the day. The Murano glass workers lived privileged lives and moved upward into wealthy families by marriage.
Decline and Rebirth of Murano
Murano glass making was centered on the island of Murano. It has a crystalline enameled surface with threads of gold inlaid within. This effect is to give a sense of mounted gemstones with the alternation of gold threads and colored glass. The legendary Murano glass works are seen in paperweights, figurines, art glass, chandeliers stemware, sculpture, and dishes.
The art of the Murano techniques is still being used today even after the peak of its popularity in the 1500s. There is a significant Middle Eastern influence in the themes of these pieces of art with Asian and Muslim patterns and themes seen throughout. Many examples of these Murano glass art pieces can be seen in Venice at the Museo Del Vetro.
Murano glass almost died completely in 1814 when the Habsburgs, in their strong preference from Bohemian glassworks, used legislation to raise the production expenses for Murano raw materials with exorbitant tariffs on the materials. This smothered the industry causing the closure of all but five furnaces in Murano that manufactured Brown Glass.
Over time Murano reemerged as the legacy it had been built on with numerous artisans that practice this technique of fine glass art up to the present day. Artist such as Archimede Seguso, Fulvio, Barbinia, and Zuccheri have followed the path to international fame and popularity.
Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Career Began in New York
The facets of glass make beautiful artwork as the experts will know. One such glass artist who worked glass and other forms of artwork was Louis Comfort Tiffany. His life was potentially one of a rich sloth, yet he decided to improve on his birth in the lap of luxury as the son of a highly successful New York jeweler by carving his own notch in the belt of high end artisanship. Putting his mind in the annuls of art, he studied the greats while a young student in New York. Then, as all serious artists do, he took some time in the most artistic of cities, Paris, France.
Emile in Nancy
His early and important inspirational mentor was Émile Gallé, whom he met in Nancy, France. This man was a great glass artist. In the center of the Art Nouveau movement, Tiffany learned all he could about glass art. He also filled his imagination with his exposure to Japanese calligraphy and printing. Other art was attracting his mind as he marveled at Middle Eastern works and pots from Ancient Roman clay potteries. This period gave him a foundation from which his own artistic talents grew.
Once he arrived back home in America, Tiffany filled his art studio with brushes, oils and canvass to successfully become a much-sought after interior decorator. Although a side venture, this work really took off.
By the year 1875, his talents yielded his own named company called Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated Artists where he had more than one hundred artisans who worked under his banner.
Founding the Foundry
From 1878 to 1933, Tiffany Studios in New York along with all his designers created wonderful stained glass artworks that were crafted in his glass foundry and studios. He was known to have developed ‘Favrile’ glass which has the quality of iridescence and antiquity. The effect was installed in the mixture step of various glass colors while they were hot.
The finished glass gives the mind a feeling of the ancients, perhaps from his keen interest in Roman and ancient Syrian glass that he observed while visiting an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. There were several other glass media that Tiffany worked in and those were Opalescent glass which is a blend of colors within the glass. This process involved silver nitrate in the glass lamination step that offers a rainbow effect to the surface of the glass. Tiffany used this mode of staining glass as the foundation of most of his glass art.
Works from Tiffany also involved Steamer glass that is three-dimensional as it has been made with glass strings that are fused to the surface for images of branches, twigs, grass and other plants. The look of irregularity becomes art with the technique of fracture glass where a pieces of glass layers or wafers are fused on top of one another to create a textured surface that gives depth and perspective for foliage scenes. Ring Mottle and Ripple glass techniques were also used by Tiffany with great expertise in his company that can be considered one of the most highly respected in its class by the entire world.
Glass blowing originated in the Middle East approximately 2000 years ago. It was invented when Middle Eastern glass makers created a metal pipe that they used to shape the glass. This is how we get clear, translucent glass. Until this process was developed, glass was primarily made by grinding and casting glass materials, resulting in an opaque pottery like glass. The glass making technique was adopted by the Romans, who heavily used it in their empire. The art of making glass came to the New World when Captain John Smith brought glassblowers from Europe to make glass in the Jamestown colony.