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Glass Circle study tour in the USA 2015

(The following article first appeared in Glass Circle News in July 2015)

Above left: window in north wall First Congregational Church Toledo Ohio

Above right: Chandelier made for Jerome Bonaparte by Werner & Nieth 1810 - Toledo Museum of Art

An enthusiastic group of 20 Glass Circle members gathered in Dearborn, Detroit, on 12th May 2015 to begin the USA study trip organised by our Chairman John P Smith.

 Our study of American culture started with a visit, by traditional yellow school bus, to the nearby Henry Ford Museum. Named after its founder, the noted automobile industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947), the museum and associated Greenfield Village fulfills Ford's desire to preserve items of national and international significance and in particular represents the industrial and technological innovations from the 17th century onwards. The site is now home to a vast array of significant buildings, machinery, exhibits, and Americana. The collection contains many rare items including John F Kennedy's presidential limousine, the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop, and the Rosa Parks bus.

 Of special interest to GC members were glass ribbon manufacturing machines (for making machine-blown glass ornaments), collections of American glass, and the Liberty Craftworks Glass Studio. We were privileged to be given a tour of the studio by Josh Wojick, who with his team, creates glass based on historical American designs.

 That evening we had a private view of Habatat Gallery's 43rd International Glass Invitational Award Exhibition in Detroit. Gallery owners Ferdinand and Corey Hampson were wonderful hosts and it was a fantastic opportunity for us to see the largest contemporary glass exhibition in America including work by artists such as Dale Chihuly, Peter Bremers and Judy Chicago.

 On the Thursday we were welcomed by Jutta Page, Curator of Glass and Decorative Arts, to the Glass Pavilion at Toledo Museum of Art. From the founding of the museum in 1901, Toledo was already known as the Glass City due to the concentration and innovative glass industry based in and around the area. ]utta also explained that contemporary glass has a strong connection with Toledo as the Studio Glass movement began in the grounds of the museum. In 1962 Harvey Littleton received the support of director Otto Wittmann to explore ways artists might create works from molten glass in their own studios, rather than in factories. Opened in 2006, the postmodern Glass Pavilion was designed by Tokyo architects SANAA Ltd.
  Exterior and interior walls consist of large panels of curved glass, resulting in a transparent structure that blurs the boundaries between the spaces and allows for wonderful opportunities to display glass from the collection, which comprises more than 5,000 works of art from ancient to contemporary times. The pavilion also houses artist studios, demonstration areas and spaces for temporary events.
  The museum continues to acquire outstanding glass for the displays, both in the pavilion and alongside fine arts in the main museum building.

  One recent acquisition that Jutta showed the group was a stunning spiral form chandelier made in 1810-11 for Brunswig Castle, the summer palace of Napoleon's brother, Jerome Bonaparte (1784-1860). The makers Werner & Mieth, Berlin, considered it to be the most beautiful chandelier they created. Its design may be attributed to the archaeologist and theoretician Hans Christian Genelli (1763-1823), as it relates to a drawing in which he 'dissects' the volute shapes of a classical ionic column.

 Our visit to Toledo included a chance to see the Tiffany & Co. stained glass windows in the First Congregational Church. From an earlier church the pews and eight Tiffany & Co. stained glass windows of the 1880s, in a high Arts and Crafts style, were incorporated into the 1913 building. Further Tiffany windows on the north wall were commissioned c.1927 depicting Truth, Justice, the Ascension, Hope, and Inspiration. As John explained to the group, Tiffany's windows are known for their jewel-like layered construction and reinforced copper leading, allowing for greater depths of colour and scale. Louis Comfort Tiffany was so proud of these windows he was said to bring prospective clients all the way from NYC. to view them in situ.

 On Friday 15th May a short flight took us to Corning, New York State, our home for the next three days. No study tour would be complete without taking in this important centre of glass making. Many of us took the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with Corning town, exploring the numerous antiques shops along the main street. Much of the visit centred on the world renowned Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) starting with the private view of 'Ennion and His Legacy: Mold Blown Glass from Ancient Rome' led by Karol B Wight. The museum cares for and displays the world's best collection of art and historical glass so our schedule was extremely full and definitely rewarding. On Saturday morning Rebecca Hopman and Beth Hylan took us behind the scenes at the Rakow Research Library and Archive to see treasures such as glass designs, documents and rare books. It was wonderful to see items rescued from the Corning floods of 1972 including a copy of the Mappae Clavicula, a 12th-century Latin manuscript that presents more than 200 recipes for making various substances used in the decorative arts. This was followed by a tour of the exquisite European glass collections in the museum with Curatorial Assistant Alexandra Ruggiaro. Key recent acquisitions include Venetian glass, English
candelabra and French furniture.

 In March CMOG had opened its new Contemporary Art and Design wing and Kris Wetterlund, Director of Education and Interpretation, took us around what is now the world's largest space dedicated to the display of contemporary art and design in glass. The new wing features more than 70 works from the Museum's permanent collection, including recent acquisitions and large scale works that have never before been on view. Thematically curated galleries, located around a central structure shaped in the form of Alvar Alto's iconic 1930s bowls, highlight objects that refer to nature, the body, history and material. Artists represented by large-scale works include Tony Cragg, Katherine Gray, Stanislav Libensky and Beth Lipman to name but a few.

 We were also treated to a glass making demonstration by CMOG's expert glassblower, scholar, lecturer, and teacher William Gudenrath. An authority on historical hot glassworking techniques from ancient Egypt through to the Renaissance, William has presented lectures and demonstrations throughout the world and contributed to numerous academic publications. It was amazing for me to finally see William at work, having previously heard him explain how glass in museum collections was made.

 On Sunday Jane Spillman, former Curator at CMOG, kindly returned to show us the important American glass collections including the development of mechanical press moulding, Corning cut crystal and the Carder Collection of glass designed by Frederick Carder (1863-1963), a gifted English designer who started his career at Stevens & Williams before managing the Steuben Glass Works from its founding in 1903 until 1932. That evening we sampled delicious local wines and traditional, seasonal food from the Corning area at the Benjamin Patterson Inn built in 1796.

 On Monday we took a coach journey through upstate New York to our next port of call, the Brooklyn Museum. Situated in the heart of one of the most diverse, creative, and exciting urban centers in the world - the borough of Brooklyn - the museum houses an extensive and comprehensive permanent collection that includes ancient Egyptian masterpieces, African art, European painting, decorative arts, period rooms, and contemporary art. The group was given special access to the galleries and collections (closed to the public on Mondays) with Edward Bleiberg, Curator, Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Near Eastern Art and Barry R Harwood, Curator, Decorative Arts. We were able to examine glass in the stores, much of which is in the process of being catalogued and made available for research on their website.

 On Tuesday we spent the whole day at the Metropolitan Museum (Met). Curator Elizabeth Cleland took us behind the scenes to see up close a selection of glass from the 50,000 objects in the museum's comprehensive and historically important collection of European sculpture and decorative art. Of particular note was a glass monteith of 1700. This is the Met's earliest example of flint glass and is engraved with the arms commemorating the marriage of William Gibbs of Horsley Park, Essex, and the heiress Mary Nelthorpe, inscribed with the name of the groom and moralising inscriptions in Italian, Hebrew, Slavonic, Dutch, French, and Greek (such as 'Fear God and honor the King' in the main panel). A tour of the galleries followed
with time spent in the Wrightsman Galleries for French decorative arts, the Lehman Collection and the American Wing with stunning daylit exhibits of 17th through to 20th-century American glass. The Met also has an extensive reserve collection part of which can be seen in their open stores within the museum. On the last day of the tour many of us revisited the Met. I also visited the Museum of the City of New York which has a fabulous collection of Tiffany Glass.

 The trip was enormously rewarding and has given me opportunities for introductions and discussions with eminent scholars and professionals, and promises to increase my specialist knowledge of and engagement with the glass collections under my care.

  Rebecca Wallis
  Curator, Ceramics & Glass,
  V-&-A Museum

(The following article first appeared in Glass Circle News in November 2013)

7th September 2013, Brighton

 The venue of Brighton was appropriate for an outing concentrating on Regency glass, as the Prince Regent's Pavilion (later George IV) is the centre-piece of the town. The day began at St Nicholas Church with refreshments, kindly provided by Shaun Kiddell, including home-cooked cake.

 Our chairman, John Smith, gave a most interesting illustrated lecture on glass table services. The custom in the 18th century was for small glasses to be used because they were filled and drunk in one draft. Men and women originally sat opposite one another, but the Prince encouraged the more intimate custom of sitting together. The illustrations showed wine and water carafes and decanters. This was followed by a lively discussion as to whether late 18th century and early 19th century cut glass originated in England or Ireland. The number of guests at banquets could be so large that we also considered whether extra glass tableware would be hired in for the occasion.

 We then toured the church dating from the mid 14th century with a Norman font of Caen stone dating back to the 12th century. This was the original parish church of 'Brighthelmstone' and is now the oldest building in Brighton. It features a series of stained glass windows by the prolific Victorian designer and stained glass manufacturer Charles Eamer Kempe.

 Lunch was taken at the historic Ship Hotel, where the Prince Regent's Ball took place in 1819.

 In the afternoon we visited the Royal Pavilion. In the Banqueting Room is an immense fiery dragon, carrying in its claws a stupendous chandelier by Parkin and Perry .

 Also of special note was an impressive table setting for dessert with glass of the period. Queen Victoria had disliked the Royal Pavilion because its position was too public, and removed most of the contents. Some of these have been retrieved from the Royal Collections and brought back for display here. After much research the chinoiserie decoration has been restored to its former glory.

 The weather was fine and many members had tea in the Royal Pavilion gardens with some including the adjacent Brighton's museum for its collection of studio glass. This was followed by a visit to Shaun Kiddell's extensive collection of cut glass. This included drinking glasses and table ware including honeypots, butter dishes, many various shaped bowls, salts and decanters, all illustrating deep and varied cutting techniques.

 The whole day was organised by Shaun and our thanks are due to him for a very interesting and enjoyable visit.

Geoffrey Laventhall

(The following article first appeared in Glass Circle News in November 2012)

Visit to the Netherlands

April 2012

Facon de Venise lidded bowl - Gemeente Museum, The Hague

 Members of the Glass Circle and Glass Association very much enjoyed a successful continental trip organised by our Chairman, John Smith. He had appreciated that we would not be able to visit the glass department of the Rijksmuseum (which was undergoing structural works), and later learned that the three other major glass museums on our itinerary - the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Mauritshaus and the Amsterdam Historical Museum - would not have their glass on show during our visit. A lesser person might have called the whole trip off. Not our Chairman. Instead he arranged for us to visit the homes of four serious collectors of antique and modern glass and we are indebted to them for their hospitality and for allowing us into the privacy of their homes to see their wonderful collections.

 We stayed at the Hotel Rotterdam near the railway station. The name and position of the hotel might have been drawn from a Graham Greene novel, although I am pleased to say our trip did not prove to have quite as much of the drama.

 On the morning of our first day we travelled to the Gemeente Museum in the Hague. We were shown the reserve collection area of the museum by the charming curator Jet Pijzel-Dommisse. She had laid out a carefully selected collection of rare glasses for us to look at and what particularly caught my eye was a beautiful early French coloured pot and cover originally owned by the Rothschild family. As space was limited we had to split into two groups. The waiting half saw an important collection of works by Mondrian and Alexander Calder who is well known for his mobiles. We saw an early film of Calder bending steel wire to make his figurative human and animal forms. Thereafter, we were able to view the result on display which helped us to understand his genius.

 Our afternoon was taken up with the visit to three collectors who by good luck all lived within a few hundred metres of each other in a picturesque suburb of Rotterdam. We split into three groups. My first stop was at the home of a gentleman who had inherited an exceptional collection of Dutch engraved glass, and was still adding to it. The star of that collection was a superb dated and signed glass engraved by the master engraver Greenwood. This glass is not illustrated in any book and its owner declared that it was his intention to keep the collection private so we were very privileged to be allowed to view his glass. Understanding the difficulty of appreciating the quality of the engraving without handling and viewing the wine glasses with a magnifying glass, our host provided enlarged images of the engravings which was most helpful. Also present was a talented stipple engraver, Ronny Bohre, who showed us some of her work.

 We then moved on to a collector of modern Leerdam glass, largely designed by AD Copier. This collector was an artist in his own right. Some of his drawings were displayed in his studio and many of his fine bronze sculptures of the human form were positioned around his house and garden. What made the modern glass displayed in the house and garden so different from the antique glass that many of us collect, was its size and the fact that it formed a very effective part of the general decor of the home rather than artefacts to be viewed in serried ranks through the locked glass doors of a cabinet.

 Our last visit of that day was to a collector of a fine early and antique English and continental glass. Within one of the cabinets was a large plain-stemmed wine glass with a drawn trumpet bowl which did not appear to be rare or unusual. It was not until our host brought it out that we saw it was an Amen glass. The diamond point engraving was virtually indiscernible when the glass was viewed through the glass doors of the cabinet. This collector also showed us the extraordinary skills of the Dutch engraver, Jacob Sang.

 On the second day we visited the Simon van Gijn Museum in Dordrecht. Simon van Gijn was a businessman, lawyer and collector who purchased the house in which the Museum is located in 1864. This is not so much glass museum as an interesting house of a successful businessman who left his period home and most of his collections to the Old Dordrecht Society when he died in 1922; it did, however, have a very good collection of engraved Dutch glass.

 In the early afternoon we went to the Leerdam Museum which is next to the Leerdam factory. It was at the Leerdam factory that AD Copier 1901-1991 started work at the age of 13. He was to become the most influential designer of modern Dutch glass and the museum is largely devoted to the production of the factory of glasses, vases and other domestic glass vessels from 1923 when his designs were first produced.


 Afterwards we went to the Etienne Gallery in Oisterwijk. This is the finest modern glass gallery in Holland, and possibly Europe, displaying the work of international glass artists and, although we saw no works by Dale Chihuly, you would have needed a large credit balance in your bank account to acquire any of the striking pieces on display.

 The third day was spent in Amsterdam. Our first stop was a visit to the house of a collector with a distinguished collection of English and continental glass. In one of his first floor rooms all the walls had been beautifully fitted with cabinets and shelves to accommodate his extensive collection of glass and books.

 Our host sought our advice on several of his glasses. One of these was a green wine glass with a bell bowl, beaded at its base, with an air-twist stem and a conical foot. The question that naturally arose was whether the glass, which had been acquired in Holland, was English or continental. We could not tell from the weight whether it was soda or lead glass and while the style of the glass suggested it might be English, without establishing the nature of the metal it was not possible to give a definitive answer.

 Our final destination on the glass circuit was the Frides Lameris Gallery in the heart

of the canal district of Amsterdam. Since their late father died the Gallery has been run by his daughters Anna and Kitty with the help of their brother Willem. The Lameris family were good enough to open their gallery for us on Sunday and provide us with refreshments as well as a chance to look at their very fine collection of Dutch engraved glasses.

 Anna gave us a talk on Jacob Sang. Anna's research established that the engraver Jacob Sang is the same person as Simon Jacob Sang who was born in Germany and was certainly living in Amsterdam in 1748.

 It was intriguing to learn that Sang sold his glass at the 'English Glass Shop'. Bearing in mind that the current view is that the lead glass on which much of the mid 18th century Dutch engraving is to be found was probably produced in the Netherlands could it be that cullet from England was used to provide the raw material?

 Kitty's talk concerned her research in establishing that the distinctive engraving on a mirror in the Gallery was the work of Caspar Lehman 1563(?) - 1622 who is credited as being one of the earliest artists to apply the technique of wheel engraving to glass. In June 1986 Christie's sold a series of six panels by Lehman, one of which is now in the Rijksmuseum.

 Moving away from glass our last day was taken up with a visit to the famous bulb gardens of Keukenhof - a spectacle not to be missed whatever the weather.

Graham Vivian


(The following article first appeared in Glass Circle News in March 2011)


Glass Circle trip to Belgium and Germany

September 2010

by Robin Wilson


This trip was arranged to visit the centre of glass making in Wallonia in Belgium and to see the wonderful collections of glass in the local museums and in nearby Cologne.

Our base was in the centre of the lovely city of Liege and we arrived during the Wallonia Festival. On the afternoon of our arrival we were entertained by a full orchestra performing a concert in the main square for the benefit of passers-by.

Saturday saw an early start with three stops and four museums on the agenda. We followed the river Meuse along which the industrial heart of Wallonia was built. The first short stop was at Huy to see the treasury at the Collegiale de Notre Dame.

The collection of religious reliques was stunning, particularly the four very ornate 12th and 13th century shrines to saints Domitien, Mengold and Marc and the Virgin Mary made of silver, enamel, copper and brass.

It was then on to Charleroi to see the glass collection at Bois du Cazier, the site of a former coal mine, which was clearly evidenced with the pit-head machinery still in place. The museum was impressive and covered Belgian glass from the 17th century to modern times. The collection covered the whole of the first floor of the museum and gave us a taste of the importance of glass making to this region.

In another building there was an exhibition of Friggers, i.e. items made by the glass blowers in their spare time, from the 19th and 20th centuries. My attention was particularly drawn to some miniature colour twist wine glasses some 4 or 5 cms tall made by Dieudonne Masson, in the 19th century. He was a glass maker at Val St Lambert.

There was also an excellent bookshop with plenty of glass interest, one book in particular on glass and crystal in Wallonia had an English edition. On reading this later I was interested to come across the following statement in respect of the prominent Namur glassmaker, Sebastien Zoude. He 'set earnestly to work attempting to discover the secret of producing lead or crystal glass. It was about 1761 that Zoude, by a combination of trial and error and espionage, managed to discover the crystal formula which had been so jealously guarded by the English. He became the first on the Continent to sell a crystal at a price which undercut the imported product by nearly 30%'.

After admiring the glass we had an excellent lunch in the museum's restaurant before embarking back on the coach for the trip to Namur. Our first visit here was to the Groesbeeck de Croix Museum situated in a plush 18th century town house. The mansion was furnished as a mansion should be, but included a good collection of Belgian glass in different parts of the building. Glass from the defunct Voneche factory, which used to be situated close to Namur, was much in evidence and their collection of glass clocks which was dotted throughout the house must be the most significant of its kind.

Following this gem we walked the short distance to the Archaeological Museum with its large collection of Roman glass over two floors. Our visit was accompanied by a loud drum band in the street below which was part of Namur's Wallonia festivaL Many members were also distracted by the antique glass shop next door which was an Aladdin's cave of goodies.

I particularly liked a Voneche tumbler with an encased flower backed with gold leaf examples of which we had previously seen in the Groesbeeck de Croix museum and were to see again in the Grand Curtius museum.

Sunday was entirely taken up with the trip to Cologne across the border in Germany. Cologne was another important centre for glass and the two museums housed impressive collections. The first museum was the Angewandte Kunst, or Applied Art Museum. It was, naturally, very strong on German glass from 16th to 20th centuries, but also included medieval Syrian glass, some 18th century English pieces and beautiful examples of art nouveau, particularly Galle (fig.5).

It is difficult to pick out individual items but a mid-16th century waldglas beaker, sadly with a damaged bowl, was beautiful (fig.3). I also enjoyed a pokal with a wavy bowl enamelled in gold and other colours, dated to 1591. My German is virtually non-existent but I think it celebrated the marriage of the Herzog Friedrich Wilhelm 1 von Sachsen to Anna Maria, daughter of the Pfalzgrafen Philipp Ludwig in 1591 (fig.4).

Lunch was in the museum restaurant before the short walk across the main square to the Romishe-Germanishes Museum. Here there was the most amazing collection of Roman and Rhenish glass. It seemed that everywhere one went and round every corner was another cabinet full of glass. From funerary urns to a cage cup (fig.6), the collection was extraordinary. After tearing oneself away from this museum there was time for a coffee or ice-cream at a pavement cafe and a quick visit to the Dom to see the stained glass windows before the return coach journey.

Monday, the final full day, brought a pleasant surprise. The Val St Lambert factory which had been closed had re-opened and so our morning was taken up with a visit to the factory.

In its heyday it employed over 2,000 people but now this is down to a mere 50-60. However, we were treated to a display of glass blowing by a very experienced glass blower and a tour of the shop floor.

After the tour we visited their museum which of course held a wonderful collection from throughout the life of the factory, The green glass organ with flashing lights was very amusing and the glass sculpture, about 2m 20cm tall made of thousands of pieces of glass carefully stuck together was fairly remarkable.

It was then back to Liege for lunch following which we had the much anticipated visit to the Grand Curtius Museum. Here we had the benefit of an introductory tour of the glass collection by the curator. Once again we had the pleasure of viewing an astonishing array of glass from Roman to modern, including a number of English 18th century drinking glasses. A selection of 18th century glass made in Liege was naturally on show and a good collection of Val St Lambert.

It just remained the following morning to say our goodbyes before making the return journey to the UK although three of us spent the morning in Liege and took the opportunity to visit the cathedral followed by a guided tour of the remains of a Roman villa and two previous cathedrals of Liege which lay together underneath the main square in the centre of the town.

Our thanks to John Smith for organising a memorable trip with its sumptuous collections of glass, good food and very good company.


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