Art Nouveau – Masters of Ornament

During the years 1890 to the beginning of the First World War, Art Nouveau, or the “new art” movement encompassed graphic arts, interior design, architecture, the use of technology and new scientific discoveries, as well as many of the decorative arts including textiles, jewelry, silver, ceramics and glassware, tile, ironwork, lighting, and the fine arts. It was considered a “total art style”, more of a movement than a style, which promoted the philosophy that art should be a way of life. In the words of William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” It was rooted in the Arts and Crafts movement of the mid to late 19th century which called for a closer union between the fine and decorative arts and away from the academic styles of the overly fussy and conservative Victorian tastes of the time.

Designs were inspired by all things in nature, employing flowers, vines, and other flora and fauna. Intertwining curvilinear forms, asymmetrical and dynamic, flowing one into another, always striving for harmony. It was described in 1894 as “sudden, violent curves generated by the crack of a whip “. Through exhibitions in Europe and the U.S. in the late 19th-early 20th century, Japanese woodblock prints became popular and were an important influence in Art Nouveau designs with their many references to the world of nature.

Art Nouveau designs have a distinctive appearance, instantly recognizable.  The artisans of the Arts and Crafts movement frowned upon the use of the machine as an aid in creating their art forms. Their ideal was to create a more humane and just society through their artistic endeavors. The artists of this “new style” enthusiastically adopted new materials and new technology in developing innovative, imaginative, and fanciful designs, particularly in jewelry, glass, and the new medium of cast iron, which was artistically utilized in architectural interiors and exteriors. It was truly “art for art’s sake” and beauty, grace, and harmony were the desired results.

In the United States, Art Nouveau is often referred to as “Tiffany style”, although there were several other well-known and highly regarded American design studios. Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) and his studio were most famous for their lamps. He experimented with the processes of coloring glass, and in 1894 patented favrile glass, which used metallic oxides to color the interior of molten glass giving it an iridescent effect. Among Tiffany’s most notable designs was the dragonfly. Gossamer-winged dragonflies, mysterious and ethereal, are admired in many cultures. They are a symbol of agility and purity because they are always found hovering and darting about near water. To the Chinese, they symbolize harmony and prosperity. Dragonfly lampshades became one of the Studio’s most popular designs, and were produced in many colors and styles. The most valuable and most highly prized by collectors have a matching base inset with mosaic glass. Tiffany lamps can be worth anywhere from 4000 to several hundred thousand dollars.

On June 6th, 2017, Sotheby’s will feature the estate of Carol Ferranti: Masterworks by Tiffany Studios.  On June 16th, James D. Julia, Inc. will be featuring lighting from Tiffany studios in their upcoming auction of Rare Lamps, Glass, and Jewelry. Among other designs, a dragonfly lamp and a remarkable wisteria leaded-glass window will be highlights.  Another resource, Liveauctioneers, is an excellent free website to view realized prices from various auction houses.

In my travels last year, I was fortunate to go to the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum in Salamanca, Spain.  Among their collections are wonderful examples of glass by Loetz, Galle’, Daum and Lalique.

The ideal of this movement can be summed up in the words of Christopher Dresser, a botanist, and a strong influence on American Art Nouveau design: “…nothing is too mundane to be transformed into a thing of beauty”  if it was from nature.

REFERENCES

 American Art Nouveau. Diane Chalmers Johnson.  Harry N. Abrams Inc., NY 1979

The Art of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Donald L. Stover. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco 1981

Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Alastair Duncan. Harry N Abrams, Inc. NY 1992

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry: An Identification and Value Guide. Lillian Baker

 Essentials of Art History. George M. Cohen, PhD.  Research and Education Association

INTERNET RESEARCH

Art Design and Visual Thinking

Antique Reporter

Nature and Art Nouveau

The Aesthetic Movement

Art Nouveau – Wikipedia

Caring For Cut Glass

The American Cut Glass Association has a very informative website.   In addition to membership information there are tips on identifying cut glass, dating and patterns.

There are several free articles from past issues of their journal “The Hobstar”.  Among them are two articles by Vickie Matthews.

The Care and Cleaning of Cut Glass” has tips on handling, washing and displaying.  Since I’m located in an area prone to earthquakes, I especially like the suggestion of using a neutral wax or gel product sold at antique shops, hardware stores or on-line.   These products can be removed without harming the glass or signatures.

Packing and Shipping of Cut Glass” has tips on wrapping, boxing and using various shipping services.  Many of these tips can be used for transportation of glass, china or collectibles in general.

One of the best places to view cut glass in Southern California is the Historical Glass Museum in Redlands.   They have an entire room dedicated to American Cut Glass.  Located in a Victorian house, they have many other types of American made glass; the largest collection West of the Mississippi.  Check their website for upcoming lectures.

50th Anniversary of American Studio Glass

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the American studio glass movement.  To celebrate this occasion, over 165 museums, universities and arts organizations throughout the U.S. are presenting exhibitions or programs relating to contemporary glass.  The movement began at the  Toledo Museum of Art:

In 1962, the Studio Glass Movement was born in a garage on the Museum grounds. Harvey Littleton, a pottery instructor, received the support of then-director Otto Wittmann to conduct a workshop to explore ways artists might create works from molten glass in their own studios, rather than in factories. A prototype “studio” furnace was built in the TMA garage, but for the first three days of the workshop all attempts to fuse molten glass failed. Finally, Dominick Labino, then vice president and director of research at Johns Manville Fiber Glass, showed up with advice on furnace construction, and with glass marbles that melted. Harvey Leafgreen, a retired glassblower from Libbey Glass, was then able to demonstrate his craft. Later that summer, many participants returned for a second workshop.

As an appraiser specializing in art glass, I am always looking for opportunities to view art glass and gain education.  Last Fall I attended the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) Show in Chicago.  I enjoyed the opportunity to view contemporary art glass and meet many artists, including Lino Tagliapietra.

The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass (of which I am a member)  has a calendar of events and celebrations for 2012 at http://contempglass.org/2012-celebration/events.    While you’re at the website, check out “A Visual History of Glass” and “Featured Glass Art Videos”.

Pile Up by Harvey Littleton
Pile Up Harvey K. Littleton (American, b. 1922) United States, Spruce Pine, North Carolina, 1979 Kiln-formed glass, cut glass base

The Glass Art Society is having their annual conference from June 13-16, 2012 in Toledo, Ohio, the birthplace of studio glass.

The Corning Museum of Glass is having their annual seminar on glass October 18-20 titled “Celebrating 50 Years of American Studio Glass” in conjunction with exhibits featuring Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino, founders of the studio glass movement.

If you have a chance, I encourage you to attend some of the programs and special exhibits celebrating the studio glass movement this year.  It is a rare opportunity to view such a large amount and wide variety of contemporary art glass.

Gold and Green Implied Movement by Harvey Littleton
Gold and Green Implied Movement Harvey K. Littleton (American, b. 1922) United States, Spruce Pine, North Carolina, 1987 Hot-worked barium/potassium glass with multiple cased overlays of colorless and Kugler colors, cut Assembled (six elements)

 

Images used with permission, courtesy of the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass.