Czech & Bohemian
Hailing from another region with the same provenance of classically elegant glassware dating back to the middle ages as that of Italy, the Bohemian glassmakers of the 19th century paved the way for their successors to take a central role in Art Glass production.
Having spent several hundred years perfecting the production of a wide variety of cut, glided, enamelled and etched pieces, the 1800’s saw a collective shift in emphasis for the glassmakers of this loosely-defined central European region from a preoccupation with shape and form to the use of ingenious and inventive methods of working with different surfaces. This started with experiments in marbling which accentuated and complemented the extant use of iridescent glass created by the particular firing and reduction techniques which were already in place.
In the first instance, it was vases, pitchers, jugs and large cups or bowls which were made with these new materials, and they would often be initially blown to a basic pattern, before being re-heated and twisted, stretched and distorted in to less formal shapes which drew heavily on naturalistic inspiration for their curves, whorls, twists and spirals. One of the most enthusiastic developers of these themes was Johann Loetz, who had already won international acclaim for his work with marbled glass, and who had touched on later developments by trying to approximate texturing by the imaginative use of colour.
The natural progression was to then physically apply textured finishes, rather than being satisfied with approximating the visual effect alone, and Loetz developed a technique known as Phänomen which involved the application of molten glass threads to a separately-formed base which was also still hot; these threads were then dragged and stretched over the surface of the base piece, which imparted furrows and channels – you can imagine how this combined with marbling to create a three dimensional fusion of both varying colour and texture.
Loetz then drew inspiration from the region’s traditional iridescent glass, and further enhanced this finish by incorporating improvements he divined from the processes used for Tiffany’s similar “favrile” style of glassware which was being made in the United States. Ultimately, this research would lead to Loetz’s renowned Diaspora series of pieces, which had a virtually metallic finish, such was the polished and reflective effects which were achieved.
Again in common with Italy, as the 20th century progressed the appearance of Bohemian glassware would mirror artistic movements as they waxed and waned. Colour schemes would briefly become popular before losing favour, leaving different collections each with their own distinctive hues. The Tango range featured bright yellows and dark blues, black, white and an almost fluorescent green, two of which would be paired on individual pieces to give vivid contrasts; Perlglas pieces, on the other hand, were largely translucent and echoed much earlier Bohemian pieces which relied more on form and function rather than eyecatching colour or texture to captivate.
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