Overview
Ancient Glass
The Oldest Glassworks
The Archaeological Finds
The Middle Ages
The So-Called Bohemian Type Glass
The Forest Glass
The Renaissance
The Baroque
The Rococo and the Classicism
Art Nouveau



Overview

 The oldest glass products come from ancient Egypt.  The very first technology of glassmaking was the winding of glass threads on a form made from clay.  The oldest blown glass is believed to be made in ancient Fenicia and Greece. While the early Egyptian glass was imperfect due to the materials used (it was usually melted from fritted (porous) glass), ancient glass was already fairly clear.  In 3rd and 2nd century B.C., the glass making knowledge was spread throughout the Mediterranean.   Typical products made in ancient times were decanters, carafes, bottles and simple goblets. 

  The oldest glass findings (bracelets, beads) in Czech countries were probably imported from Celtic regions, at approximately the 3rd century B.C.  It is possible that some beads from the Great Moravia time period were of local origin.  Written documents about knowledge of glass making in Czech countries come from the 12th century. The oldest glassworks are found in archaeological and written findings of the 13th century.

  In the Middle Ages, the production of glass grew as never before.  Glassworks spread greatly at the borders of the country using the richness of the forests  (as wood was needed to heat the glass furnaces and for the production of potassium).  The richness of the community’s people also assisted in the growth of glassmaking in Czech countries. Even though the glass products were expensive, they were found in both the upper and middle class households.   In the towns populated in the Middle Age, there were many archaeological findings of glass to support this.

  The important role in the evolution of glassmaking was played by the Czech glassmaking families who influenced the technology progress in all central Europe.  The melting of glass was a secret passed on from father to the eldest son and that is why tradition was the key factor for the growth and evolution. The biggest contributions made by the Czech glassmakers were for example, the melting of blue cobalt glass by the Schurer family in Northern Bohemia in the 16th century, the discovery of Czech crystal at Muller Glassworks in Šumava region and the discovery of glaze and Hyalite glass by Mr. B. Egermann in the 1st half of the 19th century.

  Gothic glass had elements, which characterized the Czech production for the next few centuries.  Technology was perfected through the ages, although the old traditions were continued and adjusted according to new times.  In this way, a new art style evolved called by specialized literature "Czech Glass".

  The Czech Gothic Glass was made from greenish glass mass called "Forest Glass". In contrast to the German glass, which was dark green, the Czech glass was light green, closer to the later clear color crystal of later years.  At the time, this type of glass was very popular and huge amounts of glass were exported in the 14th century to not only Germany, but also France and Flanders.  The Czech glass was characterized by the slender flutes and bulbous cups and decorated by molted-on glass spiral threads and especially pearl shapes.  These decorative techniques were invented in the Near East and spread to Central Europe at the 13th century thanks to the Crusades.  These techniques were adopted by the Czech glassmakers but were customized to the Czech characteristic decorations. 

  At Renaissance, approximately mid 16th century in the Czech countries, Venetian style enamel painting appeared (in Novohradske hory region).  This technique was quickly modified by Czech glassmakers to a more robust decoration, in contrast to the fine and delicate Venetian style.  Very often, the Coat of Arms motif, figural scenes from daily life, and paintings depicting rulers and monarchs appeared. The enamel painting spread quickly not only due to the many possibilities of decorating but this technique covered small defects in the glass.  In this way the glassmakers could also use the second quality glass.  For this particular reason, Czech glass painting was influenced for the centuries to come.  

  Except for the enamel painting, much Renaissance glass made from greenish glass mass was decorated by various molted-on techniques. 

  The epoch of the emperor Rudolf II influenced the art of the Czech countries very strongly because he resided in Prague. At the end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th century, important attempts were made at glass engraving.   The pioneer of this glass engraving was Casper Lehmann who was originally a diamond cutter.  He was the first to create goblets decorated with rich engravings. This technique predetermined the later Czech Baroque production. 

  After the Thirty Year War, in Czech countries, clear glass called Czech Crystal began to be melted. The character of this glass corresponded to the Baroque art style. The Czech Crystal became a specialty and the demand at the beginning of the 18th century was so large that the Czechs became the largest exporters of crystal in the world. At this time, many new glass export companies were founded and they had affiliations in many important ports, not only in Europe but in Asia and South America also.

  Czech engraved Baroque glass is defined by the perfection of the glass mass and also by delicate masterful engravings. At the beginning, this masterful work was exclusive for the Emperors and Kings, but soon after, many engraving factories were established around the Czech countries and produced not only luxury pieces for the upper class but also commercial glass for the middle class.  The most popular motifs were allegorical and figural scenes, texts, names, monograms and of course, dates. The advance of technology of Czech glass is confirmed by various marginal productions that did not influence the style, but are remarkable by its execution, for example double walled glasses.

  At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century,  the painting art was influenced by Rococo and Classicism, mostly in the country of origin – France - but was also obvious in Europe. In Czech countries, the glassmaking traditions were very strong and therefore the influence was slower.

  The production of the typical Baroque engraved glass decreased at the second half of the 18th century and some of the glassworks experienced difficulty selling the glass.  In some regions, the production returned to enamel painting especially glass for less wealthy people and ordinary citizens.  The crisis peaked at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The important role among the glassworks was kept by Harrachov glassworks in Nový Svět in Krkonoše. Somewhere between 1860 and 1869, the production of milk (opaline) glass started and made the glassworks famous around the world.

  After the Napoleonic Wars ended, the Czech market was overtaken by English cut glass, which the Czech glassmakers attempted to imitate for a short time.  The first Czech to make the English cut glass was Pavel Meyr from Šumava.  These foreign patterns were soon pushed from the market by the strength of the old traditions.  Since the 1820s, the Czech glass production began to rise.  In the first half of the 19th century, in the Novy Bor area, lived Bedrich Egermann, the "magician“ of glass production.  While Europe was trying to imitate the English cut glass, Egermann was experimenting with colored glass masses.  He invented a new art style and opened new views on glass as an artifact.  Thanks to him, it was possible to overcome age-old opinions on the style of glass production coming from clear glass only.

 Egermann originated the idea of producing opaque colored glass masses and decorating with glaze. These techniques inspired the glass production in the second half of the 19th century and most importantly, art nouveau and modern art mainstreams in the 20th century.

  Innovations of technology were brought not only by B. Egermann but also by many other Czech glassworks.  Their productions enriched not only the Czech markets but also all other markets around the world.  Czech glass once again, became very popular in the world markets.  Compared to glass making industries which developed in the second half of the 19th century in other countries, countries which did not have such a long glass making tradition, the Czech glassmakers were always able to maintain their top position. 

  For Czech glass of the second half of the 19th century, inspiration by the Orient and imitation of various historical styles is typical.  The new principles of art nouveau style became popular thanks to the Czech glassmakers.   The glassworks of Adolfov and Annin displayed iridized glass at the World Exhibition in Vienna. The glassworks of Lotz became famous worldwide and in 1893 they were awarded a prize at the World Exhibition in Chicago.  The biggest triumph of Czech art nouveau glass was when it received an award at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.  

  Since the Middle Ages, Czech glass has had a special position in Europe.  This stood as a measure of quality and brought technical improvements.  Thanks to the wide assortment and abilities of Czech tradesmen, Czech glass could soon be found all around the world.  The Czech glassmakers were working in many countries, helping to establish glassworks, build glass melting furnaces, train new glass masters, etc. All these aspects have helped to make a very strong tradition, which is still carried on today.

  It is difficult to say where mankind will go in the new millennium and where the automation and evolution of technologies will lead us.   It is plausible that most of the glass production will be automated but there will always be a space for art and handmade works coming from the skilled hands of glass masters.  Exactly in the strong tradition of art and hand made production is the potential of glass making for the future.


Ancient Glass

 In ancient times, 5 B.C. to 4 A.D., the crystal colorless glass used to be melted.  The glass mass was usually a bit cloudy and contained small dust particles due to the low technical level of the melting process (especially at the low melting temperatures).  Sometimes the glass mass was slightly greenish and only on exceptions could blue glass mass be found.  The blue glass mass was used mostly for decorating purposes. 

The first period of growth of the production of ancient glass occurred between the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. when the glass making spread from the Near East to Greece and Italy and later to todays Spain and France.  With the fall of the Roman Empire in the 3rd to 4th century, the technical and artistic level of glass making decreased.   From the times of wandering nations, the few simple types of glass connected with Germans were recorded.  During the Frankish times, 7th to 8th century, the glass production increased but only in the limited area of the central Frankish empire. The glass products at this time were only for the top ruling classes.

The center of the glass making industry moved to the East where it was developed without interruption. Mostly due to the Byzantine Empire getting more and more powerful, the Eastern glass became better than European glass.   In later times, it was from the East that the European glassmakers were getting their inspiration and motifs.  It was not just a coincidence that the Venetian glass making had grown after Constantinople was overtaken by the Crusaders supported by the Venetian Republic.

In ancient times, simple shapes were made which were mostly bottles, flacons and carafes, and less often, bowls and goblets.  Most of the shapes were imitated from ceramics.  The glass itself was very expensive and represented the wealth of its owner.  Bottles and flacons were used for perfumed oils, perfumes, etc. while bowls were used to decorate the tables and the small goblets were used to drink from.  The ceramics were mainly used and the glass was used only for special occasions.  


The Oldest Glassworks

   From very brief mentions in written documents from pre-Hussite times (1350 to 1420) we know of about 21 glassworks (11 in Bohemia, 8 in Silesia, 3 in Moravia) although according to archaeological finds of Gothic glass made in Czech countries, there must have been many more.

  Glassworks, whether from the Middle Ages, Renaissance or Gothic times, could only be found in the deep forest. Around the glassworks sometimes, grew a small village usually located by a stream in the valley.  Glassworks not only used to be the center of glassmaking but also independent economic bodies having its own agriculture and other kinds of productions.

  The center of Bohemian was the oldest colonized area and since pre-historic times, the population was very dense.  Therefore there were not enough forests and that is why this area was not suitable to build glassworks.  Most of the glassworks were established in the pre-border areas, which had dense forests and steep hills, both in the North and South areas.

  Glassworks needed huge amounts of wood, not only to heat the ovens but also to produce potassium,  the important ingredient needed in melting the glass.  According to old documents, to obtain one kilogram of potassium, several tenths of kilograms of good beech wood was needed.  It usually did not take much time to chop all the wood in the glassworks neighborhood.  As soon the wood area became too far away for the wood to be carried to the glassworks, the glassworks instead moved to the wood area.  For this reason, most of the Middle Age glassworks did not last long.  In some regions during the 18th and 19th century, there was a prohibition of chopping trees for the use of glassworks as the manorial nobility wanted to preserve the wood for forestry.

  Only from sporadic mentions and without other details, we know that in the 14th and 15th century, there were glassworks in the Šumava region near the villages Sklenářova Lhota, Skláře u Hořic, Pasečna, Prachatice, then in Eastern and Northern Bohemia in Modava, Doubice, Chřibská, Sklenářice u Vysokého, Dolní Krupá and Mnichovo Hradiště, and also in Českomoravská vrchovina in the villages Skelné u Křižanova, Skelné u Nového Města na Moravě, Skelné u Svitav and Jindřichův Hradec.

  Glassworks Chřibská

  Glassworks Chřibská, whose logo shows the date 1414, is considered to be the oldest glassworks in the world and was operated without interruption for almost six centuries. The historical fact is that the oldest preserved document mentioning the glassworks bears no date. It is assumed that the document originated during the lifetime of Berka of Dubá, one of the most powerful North Bohemian feudal lords, sometime between 1408 and 1428. Another record, the Estate Rolls entry from 1457 mentioned the glassworks, but without any further details.

  The establishment date 1414 is derived from the testimony of the reeve of Chřibská glass master Friedrich, who in 1514 sold this glassworks with the farmyard, sawmill and flour mill, and with all freedom and rights with which it was endowed one hundred years ago. From  this testimony this particular date is derived, even though from some of the latest archaeological finds from around the glassworks, we can estimate that the glassworks may have already stood there at the end of the 14th century.



The Archaeological Finds

  There are several hundreds of fragments of Gothic glass in Czech countries representing several different types and modifications. They are on display mostly in museums and in  specialized archaeological establishments.

 The most important collections of Gothic glass can be seen in following museums:

  Západočeské museum v Plzni
 Kopeckého sady 2
 301 36 Plzeň

  Muzeum hlavního města Prahy
 Kožná 1/475
 110 00 Praha 1

  Husitské muzeum
 Žižkovo nám. 1
 390 01 Tábor



The Middle Ages

 The oldest written document about a stained glass window in Bohemia is from 1162. In that year, John the Third, bishop of Prague, ordered two stained glass windows with biblical scenes. There are many reports about stained glass windows from the following years. These documents testify to the fact that this kind of art spread greatly in medieval Bohemia.

 Except for stained glass windows, the glazing of windows with circular glass panes fastened by lead stripes (or connected with lead stripes) expanded in medieval Bohemia. These glass panes, also known as “see-through circles” in period documents, represented a substantial part of the production of glassworks of that time. In 1451 Cardinal Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (later Pope Pius the Second) wrote that no other country in Europe has so many windows glazed by circular glass panes or stained glass as in Bohemia, where you could find glazed windows even in small towns and villages.

  New inspirations to European handicrafts were brought by the Crusades in the 13th century. Because of it, the technical and technological improvements followed. Medieval glassworks did not produce merely greenish, so-called “Forest Glass”, but also clear glass (unlike the other central-European countries). Bohemian medieval glassmakers were also able to color the glass with various metal oxides - blue with cobalt, red with copper, light green with iron. Colored glass mass was used for decorative purposes mainly – knobs, ribs and also stained glass panes were made from it.

  The assortment of Gothic glass was relatively wide. Except for circular glass panes, glass beads and pearls were produced. A stimulus to their production was given by the Dominican order, who pushed the believers to use rosaries. Rosary beads were made mostly in Šumava region, where this tradition persevered until the 18th century. After 1430 the rosary beads (generally called “paters” – as the name was derived from the first words of the Lord’s prayer, Pater noster) were exported via Nuremberg to the whole Europe.

  Medieval doctors, pharmacists, charlatans and alchemists required various specially shaped glass vessels. Although the distillation crucibles, flasks and other vessels of that time have not been preserved, they attained considerable fame in Central Europe. Medical books written in those times, explicitly preferred Bohemian glasses to any other.

  In the assortment of glass, production of drinking glass prevailed (goblets, cups, tumblers, bottles etc…). The tall, slender, flute-shaped glass of the so-called “Bohemian type” can be considered the most typical product of Czech Gothic glassmaking. Also very often, the glass with a bowl-shaped cup and molted-on, pearl-like drops was produced. In the 13th century, another vessel called “Kutrolf”  became very popular in Europe. It was a special bottle with a neck plated with two, three or four tubes. Even though there existed many different shapes of gothic glass, they all were, by their shape and decoration, characteristic for single homogeneous mainstream. This gives evidence that the production of single glassworks, which were very often far away from each other, was not isolated. The glassmakers communicated and were well informed by the glass merchants they worked with.

  In shapes and technology, the Czech medieval glass was related to the glass production of the trans-alpine regions, although it had its own style of decorations. The quality of glass mass was very high. Thin-walled products surpassed all others and were very much sought after on the medieval markets. Since 14th century, these products were exported to many other European countries.


The so-called Bohemian type glass

 Is a slender, tall glass (40-60cm), flute or club-shaped, made from greenish Forest glass, decorated with molten-on glass pearls, zigzag glass threads and many other decoration techniques. It was made from the second half of the 14th century until the second half of the 15th century. It is represented far more frequently in the findings of the Bohemian regions than in the other European countries. Accordingly to old paintings and archaeological finds, it was in standard use not only for the ruler’s court and the tables of the noblemen, but also for burgess households (archaeological finds in Plzeň, Ústí, Praha, Most, Pardubice and many other towns).

  The origin of the shape and decoration of this cup links with the Palestinian art of the 13th century. It can be assumed that it was the participants of the Crusades that made their acquaintance and mediated their style to Central Europe. It is even possible that some Jewish glassmakers left Palestine with Crusaders (because of the invasion of  the Saracens) and brought pearl-like decorations to Bohemia.

  The assumption of Palestinian inspiration is supported by the fact that the oldest glasses of Bohemian type were found on the sites which had some relation to the order of Teutonic Knights.

 
The Forest Glass

  The Forest Glass is a name for the greenish glass mass used in Middle Ages. Metal oxides, present in glass sand, cause this color and medieval glassmakers were not able to get rid of it. Because the quality of glass sand varied depending on the location, the colors of glass mass varied greatly in medieval Europe.

  German sands contain a high percentage of iron admixtures (and also copper and chromium oxides). That is why the German medieval glass mass was of a greener color. In later times, the glass mass used to be artificially colored so that the final color was dark green. These dark green glasses were very popular in Germany at the time.

  The Czech glass was much different though. Czech glass sands are incomparably cleaner and  Czech glassworks used better technology in melting the glass mass. The Czech glass had a greenish tinge and sometimes was rather clear (with a light-gray tinge). Accordingly to the color of the glass mass it is possible to determine the origin of products. This relatively clear glass mass served as a rudiment of later invented clear crystal.

  The medieval glass mass was melted with high content of admixtures, which “softened” the glass and also made it “longer”. The definition “longer glass” means that the glass cooled down very slowly and it was possible to work with it for a longer time without re-heating it. The glass could be decorated with many sophisticated decorative techniques (for example molted-on glass pearls).

  Analysis of the glass mass used at the time show, that potassium-calcium raw material was used in medieval Bohemia, unlike the Mediterranean glass which used to be made from sodium-calcium raw material. This fact augured the later invention of “Czech crystal” in Baroque (as the main substance of “Czech crystal” is potassium-calcium raw material).


The Renaissance

Renaissance was not only a new art style, but also a new peoples’ attitude to life, mundane and spiritual matters. It was a Renaissance, which happened to be an important milestone of European glass making both from a technological and an artistic point of view. Step by step, the new opinion of glass, its design and use was formed.

  The revolutionary change was brought by enamel-paint which was  invented in Venetia. Even the Venetian glassworks kept the way of this production secret (any glassmaker who would try to escape from the glassworks and reveal their secrets would be punished by the death sentence). In spite of that, the technique of enamel painting soon got into Bohemia. The beginning is not very clear. Accordingly to one version, this technique appears for the first time in Novohradské hory region (in Rožmberská huť pod Vilémovou horou) and the knowledge was brought there by one of the Venetian glass masters. Accordingly to other documents, this technique is linked with the glassworks that belonged to Pavel Schurrer, who in 1530 established a glassworks in Falknov (today’s Kytlice). Another document declares, that enamel-painted glass used to be produced in Northern Bohemia at Sloup estate. This technique begun very popular and spread all over Bohemia during the second half of the 16th century.

  Imitation of Venetian glass was very costly for Bohemian glassworks because different glass used to be melted in Bohemia. The glass produced in Bohemia was mostly with hot-shaped decorations. That is why the development of enamel painting technique went its own way and was modified into the new, original style. Since then,  a struggle between the Venetian and the Bohemian concepts of glass was waged in Europe. While the Venetian style was based on fineness and precision but without essential change, the designs of Bohemian glass were much more dynamic.  The Bohemian glass industry was able to absorb the demands of the market and at the same time was able to produce cheaper and simpler products and make them affordable for middle class – which played the key role in the future development. 

  A typical product of  Czech Renaissance painted glass was the so-called “welcome beaker”, capable of holding several liters and decorated with enamel-paint, Coat of Arms etc.  In addition, small cups decorated with figural, less often floral compositions were made.

  With the exception of  painted glass, large amounts of greenish glass decorated with various melting techniques were made. From Gothic, the barrel-shaped beakers survived, (modified into various shapes) called “Krautstrunk”. As a novelty, use of various stamps appeared. By using stamps, it was possible to create regular decors – so called raspberries on the surface of the glass. For the first time, the footed glass appeared. This shape was derived from typical goldsmith production. The most popular product North of the Alps  was “Romer” glass. (or “Roman glass” – it was a glass originally produced in Germany, which used to be called The Roman Empire at times, and that is why the glass was called “Roman”). These “Romers” were popular even in the 17th century.

  The Renaissance gave rise to a number of new shapes such as tankards, jugs, rectangular bottles and various goblets. Because of the playfulness of the Renaissance, the glassworks produced various funny vessels – beakers with threaded-on tinkling rings, vessels from which it was possible to drink only with a straw or even beakers from which it was impossible to drink from at all since the liquid spilled out onto the drinker through a hole in the glass.

  The most important novelty was the use of colored glass mass. From 1570,  blue cobalt glass was popular in the North Bohemia Schurer glassworks, especially in the Owl Glassworks near Nejdek. The popularity of blue cobalt glass (exceptionally decorated with enamel-paint) lasted until the beginning of the Thirty Year War.


The Baroque

The stylistic and art basis of Baroque can already be sought in the mannerism of the court art of the epoch of  Emperor Rudolph II. As a style of art, it was closely linked with reformation ideology, however, the Baroque asserted itself in Central Europe only as late as in the second half of the 17th century, after the end of The Thirty Year War and victory of Catholicism, represented by the Hapsburg dynasty.

  Peoples’ self-confidence and faith in their previous values were shattered by chaos, discrepancies and suffering caused by the just ended Thirty Years War. That was the environment in which the Bohemian Baroque art was born, which made it its aim to stun with splendor and dazzle with exalted movement. Except for ostentatious beauty, the Baroque compositions celebrating the Lord and the saints reflected human feelings. All that, was reflected in its way and also in the art of glassmaking. The completely new style was influenced by the invention of glass engraving. Glass engraving linked up with the tradition of the glyptiz (cutting or engraving in stone). It is assumed, that the glass was engraved for the first time at the court of  Emperor Rudolph II. The masters from Netherlands influenced the shapes of early Bohemian cups. They worked in  Count Buquoy’s glassworks at Dobrá Voda in the Nove Hrady estate in South Bohemia. They brought with them the shape of the spherical cup on the tall, slender foot consisting of several successive nodes of Venetian provenance, which was later copied in the Netherlands. While Venetian goblets were decorated with colored glass using melting techniques, in Bohemia the goblets were made from clear glass mass and were decorated with engravings. This type of goblet was produced in Bohemia approximately until 1690 – 1700.

  In the beginning of the 18th century, the shape of the goblets changed. The actual cup was taller, more-like conical shaped, while the foot was shorter, and very often decorated with facet cut (cutting of flat surfaces - facets). Very often, the goblets were with lids (so-called “Balustroid goblet style” ) and appeared for the first time in Sumava region in south-western Bohemia. The diamond engraving made it possible. The line was very delicate and deep which made the composition look more plastic.

  In the second half of the 17th century, the goblets were usually decorated with the late Renaissance compositions of birds or other animals situated in a simple landscape (represented by simple geometrical shapes), hunting scenes and less often figural motifs. Greater differentiation of motifs, as well as the improvement of the quality of the engraved décor, took place after 1700. The motifs known from the graphic works of Paul Decker, Leonard Eysler and others became fashionable. The varied mythological, allegoric, historic and genre motifs appeared. The decorations used the popularity of the hunting scenes of the Renaissance; there were allegories with cherubs and amoretti, portraits of rulers, figures of saints and even pictures of towns. The resulting impression fully respected the Baroque artistic feeling with its play of light and shade, excessive ornaments, folded draperies, and yet it was bright and linearly clear. This style stayed popular until the half of the 18th century.

  Glass cutting and engraving was concentrated in a few areas. The biggest were located in North Bohemia near Česká Lípa in demesnes Sloup, Libchava, Česká Kamenice, others were below Jizerské Hory mountains near Jablonec nad Nisou and the third center was in Silesia.

  Baroque art also brought new shapes of hollow glass. Apart from standard glasses, bottles and beakers,  there  were also representative pieces – conical or slender flute glasses. A boat shaped cup was characteristic  (intended for sweets) or various peculiar bottles. The shape was actually very simple, in order to afford a maximum of surface for exacting engraving and cutting.  Cut engraved Baroque glass was not the only type produced in Bohemian glassworks. Production of enamel-painted glass continued and also attempts at the manufacture of colored-glass (especially ruby glass) were periodically repeated. The production of double-walled glass is a testament of the advanced technology of Bohemian glassmaking. The idea to make double-walled glass was not new, having appeared already in the Antiquity. The manufacture was described in some theoretical writings but it was brought to perfection in so far unknown glassworks of northern Bohemia in the first half of the 18th century. The principle of this difficult manufacture was to make two vessels which were ground accurately so as to fit closely into one another.  Gold foil was inserted in between their walls, making an interesting decoration.  Another  very interesting decoration technique was the “Schwarzlot painting” (painting with black color) characterized by a graphic character in its artistic expression.



The Rococo and the Classicism

In the second half of the 18th century, the production of glass in Bohemia dropped steeply. The Rococo feel, unlike Baroque, was not splendor and sumptuous, so only a few masters continued this tradition. One of the best glass cutters and engravers of those times was the Lechner family in the estate on Nové Hrady in southern Bohemia. A number of glass engravers and glass cutters departed for other countries and their influence was markedly seen  in the appearance of products made in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and in Scandinavian countries.

  A specific way of development in the manufacturing of glass can be observed around Jablonec nad Nisou, where so-called “Turnov composition“ was invented in 1711 – glass mass imitating precious stones in appearance. It was an ideal material for cutting and was later used for imitation of precious stones. This production established a very famous tradition of manufacturing imitations of costly jewelry in Jablonec nad Nisou. Cut glass pieces were also used in another famous branch – the manufacturing of chandeliers. Glass cutting (from which hundreds of families lived on) dispersed from the workshops to the cottages. The household producers had their grinders at home and brought the finished pieces to the agent from whom they received wages. This way of manufacturing was very progressive and provided organizational backup for the high volume of production and fair wages.

  In the second half of the 18th century, the decorating with enamel paints revived again. It was not however, intended for the wealthy strata of population, but for the widest circle of customers both from rural and urban areas. For many rich farmers, the possession of glass was a matter of prestige. In Šumava regions, decorated snuff bottles and also painted brandy bottles were very popular.

  The most famous glassworks of those times was the Harrachov glassworks in Nový Svět in Krkonoše Mountains. From the sixties of the 18th century, this glassworks produced milk (opaline) glass, which was very popular at those times. The glassworks produced whole table sets, tea sets, and also decorative boxes, bowls, cups, centerpieces and vases, applying precise enamel painting in the spirit of the arising Rococo. The most frequent motifs were hunting and gallant scenes with a suggestion of landscapes and architecture. Many of these were inspired by the paintings of fashionable artists like F. Boucher and others. Biblical motifs, figures of saints, allegories of virtues, elements etc. were not absent, however. In the eighties, tender floral motifs with small blooms were also added.

  Napoleonic wars and the following blockade severely damaged the Bohemian glass industry. The crisis did not cause merely sales difficulties. The new artistic ideas of Classicism were for a long time strange to the Bohemian glassmakers, who traditionally produced glasses engraved in the Baroque style. For this reason, forced endeavor was often made to work in the Classicist spirit. Most of the glassmakers were not able to develop the classicist engraving into the full artistic style. There appeared artistically unexacting engraved landscape compositions auguring the coming of Romanticism. It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that timid attempts were made in the wider application of figural motifs. Only a few workshops surpassed the average, primarily in the places where the glyptic tradition remained alive. Together with the Harrachov glassworks in Nový Svět, the enterprise in Karlovy Vary also attained one of the foremost places in glass engraving and glass cutting, who had regular customers in the visitors to this health resort of world reputation (for this time, the beautifully engraved spa remembrance cups are characteristic).

  After the defeat of Napoleonic France, for a short period of time, the English cut dominated on the European markets.  The classicist diamond cut in combination with engraved decoration soon developed into an original Bohemian style, which however, did not last long. While European glassworks were imitating the English cut, in Bohemia a new phase of glassmaking began, opening new ways to modern glass art – applications of new colored glass masses, which enabled the evolution of completely new decorating techniques (cased glass, production of matt glass, etc…).

  Bedřich Egermann

  He was born on April 5th, 1777 and  died January 1st, 1864. He apprenticed in the trade of porcelain painter in Meissen. After his return to Bohemia, he became a glass painter. He established a studio in Polevsko, famous for its finely painted decorations on matt opaque glass. He was not only an excellent technologist and a pioneer of new types of glass masses, but also an artist breaking classicist lines, giving them, in the spirit of the Empire predilection for minerals, a prismatic palette and a quite different style.

  In 1820, already  a wealthy entrepreneur, Egermann settled in Nový Bor, where he began experimenting with red and yellow glazes and was the first one in the world to manufacture.  F. Egermann acquired a production privilege (patent) for red glaze and it soon appeared in many other glassworks not only in Bohemia, but quickly spread literally on all continents.

  F. Egermann acquired even greater fame with his next discovery of marble glass, imitating semi-precious stones called lythialin. He obtained a privilege for the manufacture  of lithyalin in 1828, but in spite of that,  lithyalin glass was soon produced in many other glassworks around the country. Products from marble glass used to be thick-walled and decorated with cut.

 

Art Nouveau

  The main source of inspiration of Art Nouveau became a synthesis of contemporaneous naturalism, which was born in the second half of the 19th century in various historical styles, with the remnants of the ideas of Romanticism. The motif was the reality itself, realistic point of view and its artistic transformation by means of formal characters – ornaments, allegories and symbols. This artistic expression preferred linearity and subdued colors, which exactly corresponded with technical possibilities of glassmaking. That is why the Art Nouveau made such an impact on glassmaking.

  French artist E. Gallé made the first attempts of the production in this new style already in the eighties of the 19th century. Several years later, the same tendencies asserted themselves in the work of one of the most significant personalities of Art Nouveau glassmaking, L.C. Tiffany, living and working in USA. They were both using metallic luster, iridescent elements, hot-shaped decors from wound and combed fibers. This style was typical for the later Art-Nouveau glassmaking.

  The glass in the Art Nouveau style celebrated a real triumph at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, where the number of prize winners also included glassworks J. Loetz from Klášterký Mlýn, owned by Knight Max von Spaun. The new style was enthusiastically acclaimed, and many artists and producers started to imitate it. The production of Art-Nouveau glass required good technical equipment and skilled glass masters. Bohemian glassworks were well prepared and the Bohemian Art-Nouveau glass soon ranked among the best in the world.

  The glassworks J. Loetz in Klášterecký Mlýn, owned by King Max von Spaun, occupied the leading position. The success of this glassworks was not incidental. As early as in the nineties of the 19th century, they produced iridized glass, for which they were awarded numerous prizes (at the exhibition in Vienna in 1890 and in Chicago in 1893). Outstanding works were also produced by the glassworks of Adolfov near Vimperk, Dvory near Karlovy Vary, Harrachov, Košťany and Polubný similarly is the refineries in Nový Bor and Jablonec nad Nisou.

  Of key significance for the success of Bohemian Art-Nouveau glass was the connection of production with the leading artists, especially the close cooperation with the Viennese school of arts and crafts. Close cooperation was also established with companies J.and L. Lobmeyr and Bakalowitz and Sons. The Viennese Art-Nouveau attained an original expression of its own – it was cultured, moderated in form and colors, and tented to develop ornaments in a plane. It was this very concept that impressed to Bohemian Art-Nouveau glass, its inimitable character, for which it was appreciated, together with the technical quality of its execution, all over the world.

  The wave of Art-Nouveau enthusiasm from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century soon began to subside. The new trends appeared in the art, concentrating on simpler and more practical designs. In spite of that the Art-Nouveau glass sold well until the First World War, which brought an end to this art style. After the end of the First World War, some principles of the Art-Nouveau style developed into the new artistic style Art-Deco, which however, never reached the success and popularity of older Art-Nouveau style.



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