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The History of Glass V9 | 20th Century Factory Art Glass

20th Century Factory Art Glass

By Dr Jessamy Kelly, glass artist and educator

In this month’s blog post we will explore a range of Factory Art Glass from the 20th century, including a range of Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces from Henri Cros, Maurice Marinot & Rene Lalique.

Figure 1 Henri Cros, 1886, Plaque with female figure Pâte de verre, Manufacture de Sèvres H13.5cm Collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, gift of The Steinberg Foundation (96.3.23)

The influence of chemistry and alchemy on the development of glass and ceramic production established the foundation for the new technologies that we know today. Glass truly became an independent artistic process in the form of pate de verre (a variation on an ancient Egyptian technique called faience).

This technique remained unknown for many years until French ceramicists revived it in the 19th century; among the first to rediscover it was Henri Cros working at his studio at the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory (see Figure 1).

Other ceramicists inspired by this material research were Francoise Decorchemont, George Despret, Albert Louis Dammouse, Almeric Walter and Argy Rousseau. Art Nouveau was the first movement to integrate glass artists into industry. The Art Nouveau style influenced artists to view glass as a material suitable for expression, with its organic shapes and rich, iridescent colours. This movement recognised the potential of glass as art and pioneered the importance of originality through the use of artistic creativity and innovation.  The Art Nouveau style influenced much of the European decorative arts from the 1880’s until the outbreak of the First World War. The Paris exhibition of 1900 marked the worldwide recognition of Art Nouveau.

Out of Art Nouveau styling the international term ‘Art Deco’ developed, deriving its name from the 1925 Paris Exhibition, ‘L’Exposition Des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes’. The influence of thick, experimental glass made by Maurice Marinot and Henri Navarre led to a move away from surface decoration towards the idea of creating in ‘the spirit of the material’. Their glass was viewed as the founding initiative of the Art Deco style in glass. Marinot’s acid cut vases embodied this new aesthetic style. Extremely deep etching of the glass goes far beyond the realm of surface decoration, bringing out the raw spirit of the glass (see Figure 2).

Figure 4 Rene Lalique, 1925, Spirit of the Wind, car mascot.

A revival of the art of glass engraving was initiated by Ludwig Lobmeyr, the owner of the renowned Viennese glass René Lalique became a driving force behind the Art Deco movement having previously worked with jewellery in the Art Nouveau style. In the 1920s he moved into glass, creating exquisite vases using techniques such as lost wax[1] casting, or press moulding[2]. He created streamlined forms, with deep and intricate patterns; his Bacchantes vases (see Figure 3) are one of his best-known pieces, created in an opalescent glass with a blue tinge to it. The Spirit of the Wind car mascot (see Figure 4), designed in 1925, is another outstanding example of his work. The design shows the figures long hair blowing in the wind, symbolising the power and speed of the modern luxury cars of the time.

[1] “lost wax” is when a model of the design is carved in wax, which is then covered with a plaster mould and the wax is melted out leaving a cavity for glass to be cast into. The mould is destroyed after use, so each piece is unique.

[2] “Press moulded” is when the design is carved into a metal mould and then glass is pressed into the mould, it can be used to make a run of identical pieces.

In next month’s blog post we will explore a range of Factory art glass from the 20th century, a range of European glass designers and artists who worked with industry from the 1920s onwards. Including Simon Gate and Edward Hald from In next month’s blog post we will explore a series of European glass designers and artists who worked with industry from the 1920s onwards. Simon Gate and Edward Hald from the Orrefors Glass Factory in Sweden; Kaj Franck, Timo Sarpaneva, and Tapio Wirkkala from the Ittala Glassworks in Finland and Pavel Hlava, Jan Kotik, Adolf Matura and Rene Roubicek from the Borske Sklo Glassworks, in the Czech Republic.

By Dr Jessamy Kelly

Jessamy Kelly is a glass artist and educator based in Edinburgh, she has worked as a freelance glass designer for Cumbria Crystal since 2016. She is the designer of the Loop and Palm collections.

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