American and European art glass of the 20th century reveals the boundless innovations that occurred as art trends inspired glass blowers. The century began with the Art Nouveau designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany and, by the 1940s, it saw uniquely American makers creating modernist glass art.
Of course, the master glassblowers of Murano, Italy, were melting and shaping their glass as always in the 20th century. They continued a legacy dating to 1291 when Venetian glassmaking factories became concentrated in Murano by law. The glass blown on Murano’s chain of tiny islands in the Venetian Lagoon initially set the standard for glass artistry.
BLENKO’S ICONIC COLORS
Blenko, the 125-year-old glass company in West Virginia, hit its artistic stride from the 1940s to 1960s, when a series of prestigious designers continued the story of its ingenuity. By that time, Blenko had become known for its use of hard-to-produce color, beginning with a deep ruby that was thought impossible to yield. But it was the midcentury designers who created modern, geometric styles inspired by Danish design – styles, like this Blenko lamp, that continue to this day ($365; Booth T-362).
Blocks of lemon-colored glass stack up to form this handblown lamp designed in a midcentury modern style. A mini cube finial tops the lamp, which sits on a cherry wood base. This piece is a fantastic example of how Blenko combines handmade craftsmanship with inventive forms.
Illustrated mushrooms were printed on the kitchenware, small appliances and textiles of the 1960s and 1970s, and they remain popular at Blenko, where whimsy shines through the designs. In Blenko’s iconic citrine shade, this handblown glass mushroom features a dusting of white frit encased in its cap ($118; Booth T-362).
As though inspired by peacock feathers, this Italian handblown glass lamp from the 1960s features organic semicircle details in teal and green ($345; T-362). Designed in a vase silhouette, this lamp emulates Venetian glass with irregular shapes and textures that emphasize the handmade elements.
This midcentury-modern dish in layered glass has been stretched by some talented glassblower into a starburst shape, making it perfect for an authentic period home or room ($34; T-384). The base layer is opaque milk glass, and the top layer is transparent, which renders a shiny surface.
This handblown glass bowl is called an “oyster shell” piece due to its undulating shape ($45; T-135). Made in a lilac-blue shade of glass, it reminds one of picking up shells as a child, and it was designed to be simultaneously functional and artistic.
Artisans spin and mold molten glass, then hand-shape it to form beautiful vessels. One-of-a-kind glassworks emerge, becoming personality-filled pieces with which to fill a stylish home. Visit GasLamp to see which style of artisan glass speaks to you.