Glassmaking skills on display at college exhibit
June 13, 2007
“Fine Glasswork Since the Eighteenth Century” will be the subject of a free exhibit in room B-103 at Lake Tahoe Community College. The best time to view this brief exhibit from the Perry collections will be from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“A few other opportunities to see this part of the collection may be available by appointment, but this is a very busy time at the college and the room will not be available otherwise,” said John Perry. “Moreover, some of the more delicate items will have to be withdrawn very soon.” For appointments or information call (530) 541-4660, ext. 252.
We often take glassmaking for granted; after all, humans have been experimenting with it for approximately 5,000 years. But there have been several “Dark Ages” when these skills were nearly lost. Most of the fine arts of glassmaking were introduced to Europe by the Romans and most fine European glassmaking skills were then lost with the decline of the Roman Empire.
Some of these skills survived in the Byzantine, Sasanian and Islamic areas. Centuries later Venetian traders brought some glassmaking skills back to their area from the Near East. Gradually they were reintroduced to most of the rest of Europe. Incredible knowledge was lost in each of these exchanges.
One focus of this exhibit is on the reintroduction of fine glassmaking skills in Europe and the introduction of some of them in the Orient. It starts with Venetian influences on early 18th century English cordial glasses, especially cutting patterns in the bowls of the glasses and incorporating decorative strands of white glass in their stems. Later in the century, fine, more graceful glass items were being wheel-cut with delicate patterns. These examples show the neo-classical revival of the Revolutionary Period.
English acquisition and exhibition of wondrous cameo-cut Roman glass plus dynamic exchanges of ideas between Europe and the Orient accounted for many changes in style and production. Josiah Wedgwood’s “jasper ware” and a revival of cameo-cut glass all across Europe were substantial results. The current Perry exhibit demonstrates many of these ideas with work from artists such as Emile Gallé and his friends, the Daum Brothers in France. Bohemian and Scandinavian examples area also shown.
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Of course, the Chinese led the world in many fashions such as porcelain production, but they were surprisingly slow to make glass. They had been very impressed by examples of Roman and Islamic glass, and finally Islamic traders and European missionaries introduced glassmaking techniques to China. From the 18th century on, glassmaking has been an especially popular medium there. Elaborately blown, molded, colored items resulted, many with cameo-cutting or inside painting. Many styles of cloisonné manufacture were also closely related as exhibited items demonstrate.
Although many of the pieces in the present exhibit are antiques, several are also from the 21st century. All items on display were privately purchased and are shown to enhance and encourage the study of history and the humanities. The Perry Foundation is a registered nonprofit organization.